Airdate: Sep 08, 2015
Scientist: Colin Ellard
Psychogeography - A Walk in the Park
A walk in the park can be beneficial in unexpected ways.
A Walk in the ParkAmbience, Central Park, birds It's been known for some time that contact with nature is good for the mind and body, but it turns out that a walk in the park can be beneficial in unexpected ways. I'm Jim Metzner and this is the Pulse of the Planet Ellard: One of the things happening to me as I stand in this natural environment is not only am I feeling more relaxed and content, but I'm also paying attention to my surroundings in a fairly unique way.Colin Ellard is a cognitive neuroscientist and the author of Places of the Heart: the Psychogeography of Everyday Life. We spoke to him in a New York City park.Ellard: There's kind of an effortlessness to my attention. My eye movements are flitting naturally and easily from one place to another in the environment. I'm paying attention to a lot of different things, but each one only for a short period of time. Environmental psychologists call that "fascination". So I'm in a state of fascination in this natural space. That's really very much unlike what happens to my attention during most of my everyday life, everything from when I'm doing my job sitting at a desk, writing, reading, to what happens when I'm walking down a city street where I almost always have a strong focus of attention on particular things. What we know is that kind of focal attention takes something out of us to have to do that all the time. It's a way of being that's been strongly encouraged since the time of the industrial revolution. If you think about the design of our environments, the design of many of our workplaces, even the design of our schools. They're all designed to train us to use this kind of focal effortful attention which in terms of our biological heritage is something that's very much unnatural for us.Pulse of the Planet is made possible in part by Virginia Tech, inventing the future through a hands-on approach to education and research.