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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Affective forecasting : predicting the influence of nature on well-being Crawford, Maxine Rae


Although spending time in nature has demonstrated mental and physical health benefits, many individuals engage very little with their natural surroundings. Estimates suggest individuals in developed nations spend up to 90% of their time inside buildings. If individuals underestimate the positive emotions they will experience when exposed to natural environments, they may choose to not spend time in natural settings. This dissertation reports on three studies that explored whether individual’s inaccurate affective forecasts are a barrier to spending time in natural environments. The studies compared participants’ affective forecasting accuracy for outdoor natural and urban spaces. As well, the studies evaluated whether using different cognitive processing systems influenced participants’ affective forecasting error. Some researchers speculate that forecasting error occurs because individuals use one processing system to forecast (System 1) and a different system for a real-time assessment (System 2). Study 1 compared affective forecasting error for virtual natural and urban settings. Participants used System 1 for their forecast and System 2 for their real-time assessment. Study 2 used retrospective assessments of time spent in natural and urban outdoor settings. Participants used System 2 for both assessments because their assessments were retrospective. Study 3 assessed affective forecasting error for outdoor walks in natural and urban settings. This study used a cognitive load manipulation on half the participants to overload their System 2 processing system. This meant that half the participants used System 1 and System 2, and half the participants used only System 1. Results from the three studies did not conclusively demonstrate that individuals underestimate the positive emotional effects of nature exposure and overestimate the positive emotional effects of urban exposure. Overall, the findings indicate that exposure to natural spaces increases positive affect, reduces negative affect, and induces a calm response from participants.

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