How Trees Calm Us Down

Contributed by Hank Hancock
July 11, 2017

Thank you to Mark Stephenson for sharing this fantastic story from The New Yorker with us. It’s from a few years ago, but it’s such a great compilation of research findings that we want to share it with our readers.

The writer Alex Hutchinson starts where we always start, with Roger Ulrich’s landmark findings in 1984 that hospital patients benefit measurably from views to the outdoors.

He goes on from there to describe the impact that more such findings will have in fields like public policy, public health, environmental economics, forestry, landscape design, and urban planning. That’s just to get started.

What’s especially interesting to us in the world of visual arts is how one researcher was able to break down visual components that make a meaningful difference:

the proportion of straight to curved edges, the hue and saturation of the colors, the entropy (a statistical measure of randomness in pixel intensity), and so on…. Even when images are scrambled so that there are no recognizable features, like trees or skyscrapers, to betray what they represent, their low-level visual characteristics still predict how much people will like them.

Let’s use insights like these to help make visual art in healthcare environments as effective as it can be.