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The nature of the view from home - Psychological benefits

Key Message

At work, staff with nature views reported fewer ailments and showed greater job satisfaction. They report feeling less frustrated and more patient, found their job more challenging, expressed greater enthusiasm for it, and reported higher life satisfaction and overall health. At home, the role of the view from the window is reflected in economic indicators such as rent, price of housing, and even hotel rate structures. Students who have natural views show greater attentional capacity, using both performance and self-report measures.

Source

Kaplan, R. (2001). The nature of the view from home - Psychological benefits. Environment and Behavior, 33(4), 507-542.

Purpose

Depending on what is in the view, looking out the window may provide numerous opportunities for restoration. Unlike other restorative opportunities, however, window viewing is more frequent and for brief moments at a time. The setting is also experienced from afar rather than while being in it. A study conducted at six low-rise apartment communities, using a survey with both verbal and visual material, provides considerable support for the premise that having natural elements or settings in the view from the window contributes substantially to residents’ satisfaction with their neighborhood and with diverse aspects of their sense of well-being. Views of built elements, by contrast, affected satisfaction but not well-being. Views of the sky and weather did not have a substantial effect on either outcome. The potential of nature content in the view from home to contribute so significantly to satisfaction and well-being suggests clear action mandates. A windowless environment can provide excellent light, good air quality, and interesting things to look at, yet it is often not a preferred environment.

Attraction of windows must then extend beyond their ability to provide these qualities. In fact, even on cloudy days with the windows closed and with views that are quite ordinary, a windowed place is preferred by many people.

A premise of this article is that the special status of windows is related to the fact that views out the window readily draw one’s attention. These pulls of attention in turn lead to very brief interludes that can provide a respite from the immediate tasks and demands, thus providing a micro-restorative experience. Based on previous work (e.g., Tennessen & Cimprich, 1995), it is reasonable to assume that the restorative qualities of such brief interludes depend not only on the presence of a view but their content as well.

The emphasis of the present article, by contrast, is on people’s window views from home. More specifically, the focus is on the content of these views, the degree to which residents’ views are of preferred settings, and the association of view contents with well-being and residential satisfaction.

Evidence

Psychological Benefits of Windows:
There is ample anecdotal support and a growing empirical literature substantiating that windows are favored in diverse settings, including the workplace, schools, hospitals, prisons, and residential contexts. In the business world, for example, Finnegan and Solomon (1981) reported that job satisfaction and work attitudes were significantly related to the presence of windows for their sample of 123 office workers and health care providers. Others too report a variety of benefits and preferences related to a window in the workplace (e.g., Biner, Butler, Lovegrove, & Burns, 1993; Boubekri, Hulliv, & Boyer, 1991; Stone, 1998). Not surprisingly, then, windows have served as a promotion perk, with corner offices higher on the promotion ladder. In a study of faculty members at two universities, Farrenkopf and Roth (1980) found those at higher academic ranks had significantly more windows.

Two studies showing strong links to view content in the workplace were described in R. Kaplan (1993). The first study found that those with nature views reported fewer ailments in the past 6 months and showed greater job satisfaction. In the other study, involving 615 employees in office jobs, those with a view of nature felt less frustrated and more patient, found their job more challenging, expressed greater enthusiasm for it, and reported higher life satisfaction and overall health. In the residential context, the role of the view from the windowis reflected in economic indicators such as rent, price of housing, and even hotel rate structures. The view is also likely to be mentioned as an amenity in advertisements for both temporary and permanent housing. Tennessen and Cimprich (1995) explored the content of the window view in the residential context of dormitories. They found that students who have natural views show greater attentional capacity, using both performance and self-report measures.

The results of this study add to the growing literature that suggests that nature elements must not be considered as amenities but as basic to satisfaction and well-being. Accumulating from many short episodes, the view from the window can provide long-term contact with the natural environment. Perhaps such an enduring connection is particularly useful for sustaining restoration. Given the multitude of cultural and commercial forces that reduce the likelihood of many people’s connection with the natural environment, cultivating the window view as a source of pleasure and restoration is worth both further study and appropriate action.

Additional Information

EXSUM | © 2001 Sage Publications

Benefit Statements / Outcomes

Leadership Provided By:

  • Leisure Information Network (LIN)
  • Alberta Recreation and Parks Association

On Behalf Of:

  • Canadian Parks and Recreation Association (CPRAA)

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