Attention Restoration Theory proposes that natural environments can assist in attentional functioning. There are two types of attention;
Voluntary Attention or direct attention is what we do when we deliberately pay attention.
Involuntary attention is easy and doesn't require any effort. This is useful for rest and recovery. Going into a natural environment can assist in recovery from attention fatigue.
- Informational - distractions/noise/multi-tasking
- Affective - worries/concerns/loss
- Behavioural - unreasonable expectations
- Physical - bad weather/poor vision
What happens when we use direct attention?
- Cumulative loss of effectiveness
- Measurable decline in direct attention capacity
Fatigued attention can increase irritability which in turn can create aggression and impulsivity.Regular exposure to natural environments counteracts attentional fatigue in healthy adults. More focussed studies of the effects of the natural environment consistently showed improved attention and mental restoration.
If schools create green spaces for their students, behavioural issues are reduced and students are more engaged in learning. Absenteeism is also reduced.
For more information about this theory, you can google Stephen Kaplan