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A review of the benefits of nature experiences: More than meets the eye
 

Franco LS, Shanahan DF & Fuller RA (2017) A review of the benefits of nature experiences: More than meets the eye. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 14, 864.

Evidence that experiences of nature can benefit people has accumulated rapidly. Yet perhaps because of the domination of the visual sense in humans, most research has focused on the visual aspects of nature experiences. However, humans are multisensory, and it seems likely that many benefits are delivered through the non-visual senses and these are potentially avenues through which a physiological mechanism could occur. Here we review the evidence around these lesser studied sensory pathways—through sound, smell, taste, touch, and three non-sensory pathways. Natural sounds and smells underpin experiences of nature for many people, and this may well be rooted in evolutionary psychology. Tactile experiences of nature, particularly beyond animal petting, are understudied yet potentially fundamentally important. Tastes of nature, through growing and consuming natural foods, have been linked with a range of health and well-being benefits. Beyond the five senses, evidence is emerging for other non-visual pathways for nature experiences to be effective. These include ingestion or inhalation of phytoncides, negative air ions and microbes. We conclude that (i) these non-visual avenues are potentially important for delivering benefits from nature experiences; (ii) the evidence base is relatively weak and often based on correlational studies; and (iii) deeper exploration of these sensory and non-sensory avenues is needed.

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