Impact of Urban Nature on Executive Functioning in Early and Middle Childhood

Anne R. Schutte, Julia C. Torquati, Heidi L. Beattie

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

81 Scopus citations


According to attention restoration theory, directed attention can become fatigued and then be restored by spending time in a restorative environment. This study examined the restorative effects of nature on children’s executive functioning. Seven- to 8-year-olds (school aged, n = 34) and 4- to 5-year-olds (preschool, n = 33) participated in two sessions in which they completed an activity to fatigue attention, then walked along urban streets (urban walk) in one session and in a park-like area (nature walk) in another session, and finally completed assessments of working memory, inhibitory control, and attention. Children responded faster on the attention task after a nature walk than an urban walk. School-aged children performed significantly better on the attention task than preschoolers following the nature walk, but not urban walk. Walk type did not affect inhibitory control or verbal working memory. However, preschoolers’ spatial working memory remained more stable following the nature walk than the urban walk.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)3-30
Number of pages28
JournalEnvironment and Behavior
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 2017


  • attention
  • attention restoration theory
  • cognition
  • nature
  • preschoolers
  • working memory

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Environmental Science


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