PODCAST: How trees make people happier and healthier

Knowledge Applied examines research of environmental neuroscientist Marc Berman

City park
In a new podcast, Asst. Prof. Marc Berman discusses the effects that trees have on urban residents.
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Andrew Bauld
News Officer for Arts and HumanitiesNews Office

Editor’s note: Knowledge Applied is a podcast from the University of Chicago. Each episode will take listeners inside the research of UChicago scholars helping reshape everyday life. The first season of Knowledge Applied will feature researchers tackling some of the biggest questions facing cities today.

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It’s no surprise that a little nature can go a long way in making people feel better. But the research of UChicago environmental psychologist Marc Berman shows that adding trees to a city can have a significant impact on a person’s health and happiness.

Berman leads the Environmental Neuroscience Lab at UChicago, and his findings have shown that even just looking at pictures of nature or hearing nature sounds can have positive cognitive effects.

“And the question is: Why?” said Berman, assistant professor in the Department of Psychology. “Is it because its restoring attention, so there’s some psychological benefit that’s translating to a physical benefit? Is it because the air is cleaner? Is it because having trees on the street make your neighborhood nicer and people are more encouraged to exercise? We don’t know the answer to those things–yet.”  

Berman was recently recognized for his research with the Janet Taylor Spence Award for Transformative Early Career Contributions by the Association for Psychological Science, awarded annually to “the most creative and promising investigators who embody the future of psychological science.”  

On this episode of Knowledge Applied, Berman shares how he measured the effect that trees have on the residents of Toronto, talks about how his lab is mapping brains interacting with nature and discusses a new app which will help people living in cities find their own urban nature experiences.  

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