Ulrich, R.S. and R.F. Simons. 1986. Recovery from stress during exposure to everyday outdoor environments. In: J. Wineman, R. Barnes, and C. Zimring (eds.). The costs of not knowing: Proceedings of the Seventeenth Annual Conference of the Environmental Design Research Association. Environmental Design Research Association, Washington, DC.
The lack of research concerning physiological influences of everyday settings has prevented full evaluation of the human costs and benefits of contracts with environments. The emphasis of this study was to investigate, using selected physiological measures, the extent to which exposure to everyday settings may facilitate or hamper recovery from stress. After viewing a stressful movie, 120 subjects were exposed to color/sound videotapes of different outdoor environments. Recovery during the environmental presentations was assessed by recording muscle tension, skin conductance, and pulse transit time, a non-invasive measure that correlates with blood pressure. Findings indicated that individuals recovered significantly faster and more completely from stress when they were exposed to natural settings as opposed to urban environments with either pedestrians or traffic. Different everyday environments can have quite different effects on physiological systems, including the autonomic and skeleto-muscular. Implications of the findings for design and planning are discussed.