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Adam Emfield, Mark Neider; To Look or to Listen: Evaluating Visual and Auditory Contributions to the Cognitive Restoration Effect. Journal of Vision 2013;13(9):1072. doi: 10.1167/13.9.1072.
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It has recently been suggested that interacting with different types of real-world environments can influence cognitive performance (Berman, Jonides, & Kaplan, 2008). Specifically, park-like environments appear to have a restorative effect on cognition while busier city-like environments do not. Interestingly, these benefits seem to arise from the visual domain; viewing pictures of these settings produced benefits similar to the environments themselves. These variations may be related to differences in bottom-up attentional demands. In our study, we further explored the cognitive restoration effect by examining (1) whether certain types of visual stimuli that contained water were more likely to induce cognitive improvement and (2) whether other immersion factors, such as environment-related sound, produced additional improvements above visual information alone. We had 202 participants complete a test battery consisting of the Attentional Network Task (ANT), reverse digit span task, and useful field of view (UFOV) task both prior to and following a short intervention. For the intervention, participants were assigned to one of six conditions where they viewed or listened to beach or city pictures, sounds, or a combination of both. In picture conditions, participants viewed 50 images for 7 seconds each; in sound conditions, participants listened to the sound of ocean waves or of New York City for 350 seconds. Contrary to previous research, we found no differential improvement in ANT task performance in any intervention conditions. A similar absence of improvement was observed in UFOV performance. Interestingly, listening to ocean sounds did improve digit span capacity (0.82 digit improvement) while city sounds did not. Overall, our findings suggest that if pictures of certain environments can improve cognitive performance, that improvement is not dependent upon the presence of water. Furthermore, in some cases, auditory information might be better for improving cognitive processing than visual information.
Meeting abstract presented at VSS 2013
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