Skip to main content
Dryad logo

Providing virtual nature experiences to incarcerated men reduces stress and increases interest in the environment

Citation

Ruff, James et al. (2021), Providing virtual nature experiences to incarcerated men reduces stress and increases interest in the environment, Dryad, Dataset, https://doi.org/10.5061/dryad.2jm63xsn2

Abstract

Humans gain multiple health benef­­­its through contact with the green and blue parts of the world . However, many people do not have access to such places, including more than two million adults who are incarcerated. Building on studies that have shown positive emotional and mood effects when inmates in solitary confinement were exposed to nature videos featuring non-human built environments in their cellblocks, we measured physiological effects of interventions of nature visual imagery and sounds (from forests, mountains, streams, and ocean) on incarcerated adult males.  We documented: 1) stimuli from nature media was able to decrease stress levels as measured by cortisol and GSR levels of stress or proxies for stress levels, 2) mode of delivery (audio vs. visual) differentially influenced some aspects of stress indicators, 3) exposure to nature stimuli evoked interest in learning more about  the depicted habitats, and 4) different habitats elicited different responses. Participants reported ,through written surveys, feeling more calm, less anxious and less depressed after viewing nature videos and/or listening to nature sounds and  stated little or no preference for visual vs. audio stimuli. This type of intervention shows promise as fulfilling the goals of corrections administrators and those concerned with human mental and physical health of  populations with little or no contact with the benefits of actual nature experiences. Findings from this study provide foundational information for future studies  on different correctional populations, and other nature-deprived populations.

Methods

Four data sets have been uploaded containing measures of physiological stress experienced by incarcerated men. Sample size varies by specific measurement. All measures have been anonymized to protect participant privacy.

Cortisol_all_participants.csv

This file contains pre- and post-treatment salivary cortisol (ug/dL) measures from 65 people.

GSR_peak_count_with_cortisol.csv

This file contains the count of galvanic skin response (GSR) peaks experienced by 26 people who were exposed to stimuli from nature media (audio or visual) from four habitats (forest, mountain, ocean, stream) along with pre- and post-treatment salivary cortisol (ug/dL) measures. Additional information about day, session, and stimulus order is also provided.

GSR_peak_amplitude_with_cortisol.csv

This file contains the amplitude of 1130 galvanic skin response (GSR) peaks experienced by 24 people who were exposed to stimuli from nature media (audio or visual) from four habitats (forest, mountain, ocean, stream) along with pre- and post-treatment salivary cortisol (ug/dL) measures. Additional information about day, session, and stimulus order is also provided.

Facial_data.csv

This file contains the count and percentage of frames that 25 participants expressed emotionally positive, negative, or neutral facial expressions during visual presentation of 4 habitat types (forest, mountain, ocean, stream). Additional information about day, session, and stimulus order is also provided.

Funding

National Geographic Society, Award: HJ-101R-17