Soothing Road Rage

Study finds natural settings reduce driver frustration

SATURDAY, Dec. 6, 2003 (HealthDayNews) -- Nature hath charms to soothe the savage driver.

An American study found people who watched a videotape of a drive down a scenic parkway lined with trees had lower scores on a frustration test than people who watched a video of a drive through an urban area with buildings and utility poles.

The results indicate that natural beauty may have a calming effect on drivers. The study appears in the current issue of Environment and Behavior.

"Researchers have long found that nature can be an antidote to stress. We found that roadways with views of vegetation and trees rather than more urban scenes can make drivers feel a little less frustrated," study co-author Jack Nasar, a professor of city and regional planning at Ohio State University, says in a prepared statement.

The study included 106 college students. They viewed one of three videotapes recorded on northern New Jersey or southern New York highways. Each video was 4 minutes and 45 seconds long and showed a view through the front windshield of a car moving along a roadway.

While they watched the videos, the students placed their foot on a dummy accelerator and were told to imagine they were driving to work.

One video was of a four-lane road winding through a wooded area with few visible buildings or any other manmade structures. The second video was of a six-lane controlled access highway. It wasn't as scenic or wooded as the first video, but contained relatively few buildings or utility poles.

The third video was taken on a six-lane highway through an area with strip malls, commercial signs, utility poles and sparse vegetation.

The students who viewed the most scenic video scored lower on the frustration test than those who watched the urban videos.

"These results go along with other studies that show people prefer natural scenery over urban scenery and that natural scenery can produce positive psychological effects," says study-co-author Jean Marie Cackowski, a former Ohio State graduate student and now managing editor of the Journal of Planning Literature.

More information

Here's where you can learn more about coping with everyday stress.

SOURCE: Ohio State University, news release, November 2003
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