The Influence of Natural Sounds on Attention Restoration

Open Access
Ferguson, Lauren Abbott
Graduate Program:
Recreation, Park and Tourism Management
Master of Science
Document Type:
Master Thesis
Date of Defense:
May 06, 2015
Committee Members:
  • Peter B Newman, Thesis Advisor
  • Brendan Derrick Taff, Thesis Advisor
  • natural sounds
  • human health and wellbeing
  • soundscape management
The evolution of internet, smartphones and tablets allow us to constantly be connected with work, friends, family, etc. The distractions of these technologies, along with a longer work week and little time for rest and relaxation, can cause mental fatigue. Mental fatigue is related to difficulty focusing and even feelings of irritability. Parks and protected areas offer a place of refuge. An existing body of literature shows being in nature can relieve stress and improve overall health and wellbeing. Research indicates that experiencing the restorative sounds of nature is an important reason for visiting national parks, and despite the growing body of protected areas soundscape-focused research, very little attention has been placed on the relationship between natural sounds and human health. This lab study aims to increase understanding regarding the positive effects of natural sound on restoration based on Attention Restoration Theory (Kaplan, 1995). Built on previous research, the researcher predicted that natural sounds will promote restoration and improve cognitive processes, while anthropogenic sounds impede restoration. These results will provide a better understanding of how parks can serve holistically as places for human, environmental and ecological health, as specifically measured through the role of natural sounds on recovery from mental fatigue. In addition, gaining a better understanding of the benefits natural sounds can have on human restoration will further validate soundscape protection. Finally, this research will help park and protected area managers develop plans and policies that aim to provide visitors with a beneficial, restorative soundscape experience.