Viewing Natural vs. Urban Images and Emotional Facial Expressions: An Exploratory Study

Marek Franek

Jan Petruzalek

There is a large body of evidence that exposure to simulated natural scenes has positive effects on emotions and reduces stress. Some studies have used self-reported assessments, and others have used physiological measures or combined self-reports with physiological measures; however, analysis of facial emotional expression has rarely been assessed. In the present study, participant facial expressions were analyzed while viewing forest trees with foliage, forest trees without foliage, and urban images by iMotions’ AFFDEX software designed for the recognition of facial emotions. It was assumed that natural images would evoke a higher magnitude of positive emotions in facial expressions and a lower magnitude of negative emotions than urban images. However, the results showed only very low magnitudes of facial emotional responses, and differences between natural and urban images were not significant. While the stimuli used in the present study represented an ordinary deciduous forest and urban streets, differences between the effects of mundane and attractive natural scenes and urban images are discussed. It is suggested that more attractive images could result in more pronounced emotional facial expressions. The findings of the present study have methodological relevance for future research. Moreover, not all urban dwellers have the possibility to spend time in nature; therefore, knowing more about the effects of some forms of simulated natural scenes surrogate nature also has some practical relevance.

This publication uses Facial Expression Analysis which is fully integrated into iMotions Lab

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