Arianne van der Wal publishes in Proceedings of the Royal Society of London B: Biological Sciences

Based on her Master thesis, Arianne van der Wal together with her co-authors Hannah Schade, Lydia Krabbendam and Mark van Vugt published the article “Do Natural Landscapes Reduce Future Discounting in Humans”.

06-11-2013 | 12:01

Research findings
The findings of our research showed that people take the future more into account while making decisions in a natural environment as opposed to an urban environment. Participants that took part in our research had to make various financial decisions, such as getting 100 euro now or a larger amount, ranging from 110 to 170 euro, in 90 days. When they were exposed to nature, either by photos or by being in a forest, they preferred the future monetary amount already from 122 euro onwards. Participants who were exposed to the city, through pictures or by being in a build environment, preferred the future monetary amount from 135 euro onwards.

Underlying mechanism
The underlying mechanism for people, who are exposed to an urban environment, to make more short term decisions might be related to the amount of stressful stimuli to which they are exposed, for stress causes people to focus more on the here and now as opposed to the future. Whereas nature usually makes calm and gives a sense of scope, which makes it easier to focus on the future. In addition, nature is not stressful for the human brain in general, since it is the confidential environment regarding our evolutionary roots. It is possible that the human mind still needs to adapt to the city as our living space.

The fact that nature makes people less impulsive and value the future more entails, besides its scientific relevance, also important implications. Many of the current social and environmental problems nowadays are caused by strategies and behaviors that focus on short term benefits. By finding ways to bring people more in contact with nature, we can positively and probably structurally change people’s behavior with regard to, for example, the environment.  

 Van der Wal, A. J., Schade, H. M., Krabbendam, L., & Van Vugt, M. (2013). Do Natural Landscapes Reduce Future Discounting in Humans? Proceedings of the Royal Society of London B: Biological Sciences. December, 280 (1773), doi: 10.1098/rspb.2013.2295. Download the paper here.