By Brad Bell
People have different aspirations. Some people may wish to be
famous and wealthy. Others may be more concerned with developing good social relationships and making a contribution to
their community. Could exposure to nature affect our aspirations? In their first three studies, Weinstein, Przybylski, and Ryan (2009)
had participants view either slides involving natural scenes or slides
involving human-made scenes (cityscapes). The participants were
randomly assigned to conditions. They measured both intrinsic aspirations and extrinsic aspirations. The intrinsic aspirations questions concerned the importance of relationships and community. The extrinsic aspirations questions concerned the importance of fame and wealth. A composite intrinsic aspirations measure concerned relationships and community aspirations. A composite extrinsic aspirations measure concerned fame and wealth aspirations.
In all of the first three studies they found that, on the average,
participants who viewed slides with natural scenes had higher
intrinsic aspirations than participants who viewed slides with man-made scenes. Moreover, in all of the first three studies they found that, on the average, participants who viewed slides with natural scenes had lower extrinsic aspirations than participants who
viewed slides with made-made scenes.
In their fourth study, Weinstein, Przybylski, and Ryan (2009)
found that participants who were in a lab room with four plants
reported higher intrinsic aspirations and lower extrinsic aspirations
than participants in the lab room without these plants. (1) There may be practical implications of these findings. It may be a good idea to have nature pictures and plants in offices. This might lead to people placing more importance on social relationships and making a contribution to an organization or society.
1. See their article for information on other measures and findings.
Weinstein, N., Przybylski, A. K., & Ryan, R. M. (2009). Can
nature make us more caring? Effects of immersion in nature on
intrinsic aspirations and generosity. Personality and Social
Psychology Bulletin, 35, 1315-1329.