A new study from researchers at the University of Utah finds that exposure to nature’s sights or sounds, even virtually, decreased physiological signs of stress in incarcerated prisoners and spurred their interest in learning more about the habitats they experienced.
The study’s findings , published in Ecopsychology , could be used to benefit the physical and mental health of incarcerated people .
For years, Nalini Nadkarni, from the Faculty of Biological Sciences, has brought science and nature to prisons, to people who have little or no contact with her. One of their efforts, at the Snake River Jail, is called the "Blue Room," a room in a maximum security facility where people in solitary confinement can watch videos showing natural environments .
Previous work showed that people who viewed the videos reported more positive moods and committed fewer violent offenses. The Blue Room was even named one of Time Magazine’s Top 25 Innovations of 2014 .
The researchers monitored the participants’ stress level with two measures: salivary cortisol, which responds to changes in stress within minutes, and galvanic skin response, which measures related unconscious changes in the electrical properties of the skin. with emotional states.
Participants reported feeling less stressed after experiences of virtual nature, and physiological measurements backed this up . Exposure to nature greatly decreased her stress.
The researchers also noted that videos produced a more variable response overall than audio, meaning that different video habitats produced different stress-relieving responses, while responses to different audio habitats were largely constant.