Attention Restoration Theory: General Introduction


Attention Restoration Theory asserts that people can understand better after spending time in nature.

Attention Restoration Theory

The theory was developed by Rachel and Stephen Kaplan in the 1980s in their book, “The experience of nature: A psychological perspective”. According to Rachel and Stephen's Attention Restoration Theory (ART), there is evidence that there are at least two types of attention. One type is consciously directed attention and another is involuntary or effortless attention. When kids do math functions or when adults write reports, they are using consciously directed attention.

Mental Fatigue

Another type of attention is involuntary attention when a person is captured by something surprising that happens out of the blue. The Kaplan’s describes a series of characteristics that an environment must have to be restorative. Mental fatigue is the result of the constant use of direct attention for a period of time, as it tries to inhibit stimuli’s from an environment that can come from a natural or built.

Marc Berman

Generally, we assume that spending time with nature such as watching a sunset, gazing at the oceans or catching the butterflies is just a free time thing to do, but researchers like Marc Berman had proved that by engaging the involuntary system, the self-directed-attention system can rest and recover. By being in the natural world people are able to switch to another restorative system. He says nature offers a “soft fascination." While it engages, it is not totally absorbing. Nature provides the peaceful environment to recharge that a busy street does not.

For an interesting resource for learning outside the classroom, see the UK's Learning Outside the Classroom.

Read More, about new learning methodologies at BEYOND TEACHING.