Recreational Setting and Characteristics' Influence on Mental Restoration


  • Lance Haynie University of Alabama


According  to  Attention  Restoration  Theory  (ART),  one's  directed attention, or one's ability to focus, can tire from overuse and overstimulation, which results in stress that requires time away from the stimulus for rest and recovery (R. Kaplan & S. Kaplan, 1989; Kaplan, S., 1995). Environments and activities that aid in this mental recovery are said to possess restorative qualities. They are described as being interesting in and of themselves, and can hold one's attention with little or no effort. In particular, the outdoor, natural environment is thought to be optimal for inducing mental restoration (R. Kaplan & S. Kaplan, 1989; Kaplan, S., 1995). Many studies suggest that contact with  outdoor, natural settings foster a restorative outcome in terms of attention performance and positive affect (Berto, 2005; Grahn, 2003; Hartig, Mang, & Evans, 1991; Taylor, 2001; Tennessen, 1995). In addition, research suggests that some physical activities and exercise also produce positive moods and lower reported levels of stress (Hansen, Stevens, & Coast, 2001; Hassmen, 2000; Lee, 2001; Ray, 2001; Rocheleau, 2004; Salmon, 2001)This paper seeks to examine the interplay of two forces, environment/setting and characteristics of the activity, that affect one's mental restoration. This study investigates the influence of semester-long participation in a range of recreational activities occurring in a range of different settings. Two general variables, setting and activity are analyzed to observe effects on mental restoration. In particular, the study investigated the role of gender, perceived autonomy, physical challenge of the activity, and setting characteristics on a range of affective restorative outcomes.