By PT Staff, published on November 1, 2003 - last reviewed on July 17, 2008
Finding a shortcut to work may not be the only way to improve your
morning commute. People have more patience for on-road stresses when they
drive through scenic, nature-lined streets. This is the case even when
judged against roads that have less traffic, but are surrounded by
"Not only do we like natural scenes, but they have a
physiological effect. People are, in fact, calmed down and relaxed by
them," says coauthor Jack Nasar, professor of city and regional
planning at Ohio State University.
For the study, 106 participants watched a
simulation of a morning commute. Some were shown a four-lane road passing
woods with little development. Others were shown commutes with fewer cars
on the road, but with more strip malls and less vegetation.
Before the simulation, the participants had been given tests
designed to increase frustration—for example, anagrams that had no
solution. After their "drive," researchers measured the
participants' stress levels with a questionnaire. The drivers who
had been on the greener but more congested road were less
Nasar gives an evolutionary explanation for the calming effects of
natural scenery. "There is an innate response to nature: it has a
healing and restorative effect," he says.