A Psychoevolutionary Approach to Identifying Preferred Nature Scenes With Potential to Provide Restoration From Stress

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Research supports therapeutic use of nature scenes in healthcare settings, particularly to reduce stress. However, limited literature is available to provide a cohesive guide for selecting scenes that may provide optimal therapeutic effect.


This study produced and tested a replicable process for selecting nature scenes with therapeutic potential. Psychoevolutionary theory informed the construction of the Importance for Survival Scale (IFSS), and its usefulness for identifying scenes that people generally prefer to view and that hold potential to reduce stress was tested.


Relationships between Importance for Survival (IFS), preference, and restoration were tested. General community participants (N = 20 males, 20 females; M age = 48 years) Q-sorted sets of landscape photographs (preranked by the researcher in terms of IFS using the IFSS) from most to least preferred, and then completed the Short-Version Revised Restoration Scale in response to viewing a selection of the scenes.


Results showed significant positive relationships between IFS and each of scene preference (large effect), and restoration potential (medium effect), as well as between scene preference and restoration potential across the levels of IFS (medium effect), and for individual participants and scenes (large effect).


IFS was supported as a framework for identifying nature scenes that people will generally prefer to view and that hold potential for restoration from emotional distress; however, greater therapeutic potential may be expected when people can choose which of the scenes they would prefer to view. Evidence for the effectiveness of the IFSS was produced.

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