University of Oulu

Browning, M. H. E. M., Mimnaugh, K. J., van Riper, C. J., Laurent, H. K., & LaValle, S. M. (2020). Can Simulated Nature Support Mental Health? Comparing Short, Single-Doses of 360-Degree Nature Videos in Virtual Reality With the Outdoors. Frontiers in Psychology, 10.

Can simulated nature support mental health? : comparing short, single-doses of 360-degree nature videos in virtual reality with the outdoors

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Author: Browning, Matthew H. E. M.1; Mimnaugh, Katherine J.1,2,3; van Riper, Carena J.2;
Organizations: 1Virtual Reality & Nature (VRN) Lab, College of Applied Health Sciences, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Champaign, IL, United States
2Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Sciences, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Urbana, IL, United States
3Center for Ubiquitous Computing, Faculty of Information Technology and Electrical Engineering, University of Oulu, Oulu, Finland
4Department of Psychology, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Champaign, IL, United States
Format: article
Version: published version
Access: open
Online Access: PDF Full Text (PDF, 2.7 MB)
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Language: English
Published: Frontiers Media, 2020
Publish Date: 2020-01-20


Nature exposure in virtual reality (VR) can provide emotional well-being benefits for people who cannot access the outdoors. Little is known about how these simulated experiences compare with real outdoor experiences. We conduct an experiment with healthy undergraduate students that tests the effects of 6 min of outdoor nature exposure with 6 min of exposure to a 360-degree VR nature video, which is recorded at the outdoor nature exposure location. Skin conductivity, restorativeness, and mood before and after exposure are measured. We find that both types of nature exposure increase physiological arousal, benefit positive mood levels, and are restorative compared to an indoor setting without nature; however, for outdoor exposure, positive mood levels increase and for virtual nature, they stay the same. The nature-based experience shows benefits above and beyond the variance explained by participants’ preferences, nature and VR experiences, and demographic characteristics. Settings where people have limited access to nature might consider using VR nature experiences to promote mental health.

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Series: Frontiers in psychology
ISSN: 1664-1078
ISSN-E: 1664-1078
ISSN-L: 1664-1078
Volume: 10
Article number: 2667
DOI: 10.3389/fpsyg.2019.02667
Type of Publication: A1 Journal article – refereed
Field of Science: 113 Computer and information sciences
Funding: This work was supported by a pilot grant from the Center for Health, Aging, and Disability in the College of Applied Health Sciences at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, as well as support from the Department of Recreation, Sport and Tourism at the same university.
Copyright information: Copyright © 2020 Browning, Mimnaugh, van Riper, Laurent and LaValle. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY). The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author(s) and the copyright owner(s) are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.