What’s the Difference? Real Nature vs. Views of Nature vs. Pictures of Nature

One of Henry Domke’s recent blog postings got me thinking again about this question of the experience of nature–real nature vs. views of real nature from a window (as was the case with Roger Ulrich’s 1984 “View From a Window” study*), vs. the view of an image of nature, which Ulrich and others have also studied. Each has proven, quantitatively and qualitatively (or empirically and anecdotally) to be beneficial, and more beneficial than, say, looking at a brick wall or being inside of a cubicle all day long, but how do they differ? Is there a hierarchy in terms of positive outcomes? 

My guess would be that the most benefits would be derived from a person actually being outside, as the Kaplans would probably argue; that the second-most effective option would be a real view of nature, as was the case with Ulrich’s study; and that pictures of nature, while perhaps not as effective as being in nature or viewing real nature out the window, are an effective in concert with the first two, or if the first two are not possible (see here and here for a couple of good articles on pictures of nature).

But we need more research to really find out. Of course, there are also the finer questions within this question about what kind of nature, what kind of views out the window, what kinds of pictures of nature…if anyone knows of some good studies that have already been done, please do send them my way and I will highlight them on the blog and on the Therapeutic Landscapes Database.

*Ulrich, Roger S. (1984). “View Through a Window May Influence Recovery from Surgery.” Science, Vol. 224, No. 4647, April 27, pp. 420-421.