Here's why 'take a hike' is good advice
Hikers did much better in creativity scores after spending a few days outdoors, unplugged from smartphones and iPads, according to a psychological study.
"This is a way of showing that interacting with nature has real, measurable benefits to creative problem-solving that really hadn't been formally demonstrated before," says David Strayer, professor of psychology, University of Utah, who co-authored the study with Ruth Ann Atchley and Paul Atchley from Kansas University.
"It provides a rationale for trying to understand what is a healthy way to interact in the world, and that burying yourself in front of a computer 24/7 may have costs that can be remedied by taking a hike in nature," adds Strayer, the journal Public Library of Science ONE, reports.
"Writers for centuries have talked about why interacting with nature is important, and lots of people go on vacations. But I don't think we know very well what the benefits are from a scientific perspective," says Strayer, according to an Utah statement.
The study involved 56 people - 30 men and 26 women - with an average age of 28 years.
They participated in four-to-six-day wilderness hiking trips organised by the Outward Bound expedition school in Alaska, Colorado, Maine and Washington state.
No electronic devices were allowed on the trips.
Of the 56 study subjects, 24 took a 10-item creativity test the morning before they began their backpacking trip, and 32 took the test on the morning of the trip's fourth day.
The results: People who had been backpacking four days got an average of 6.08 of the 10 questions correct, compared with an average score of 4.14 for people who had not yet begun a backpacking trip.
"We show that four days of immersion in nature, and the corresponding disconnection from multimedia and technology, increases performance on a creativity, problem-solving task by a full 50 percent," the researchers conclude.
"Our modern society is filled with sudden events (sirens, horns, ringing phones, alarms, TV, etc.) that hijack attention," the psychologists wrote. "By contrast, natural environments are associated with gentle, soft fascination, allowing the attentional system to replenish."