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The power of nature to both heal and inspire awe has been noted by many great thinkers. However, no study has examined how the impact of nature on well-being and stress-related symptoms is explained by experiences of awe. In the present investigation, we examine this process in studies of extraordinary and everyday nature experiences. In Study 1, awe experienced by military veterans and youth from underserved communities while whitewater rafting, above and beyond all the other positive emotions measured, predicted changes in well-being and stress-related symptoms one week later. In Study 2, the nature experiences that undergraduate students had during their everyday lives led to more awe, which mediated the effect of nature experience on improvements in well-being. We discuss how accounting for people's emotional experiences during outdoors activities can increase our understanding of how nature impacts people's well-being. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2018 APA, all rights reserved).
Past studies have documented interpersonal benefits of natural environments. Across four studies, we tested the hypothesis that exposure to more beautiful nature, relative to less beautiful nature, increases prosocial behavior. Study 1 yielded correlational evidence indicating that participants prone to perceiving natural beauty reported greater prosocial tendencies, as measured by agreeableness, perspective taking, and empathy. In Studies 2 and 3, exposure to more beautiful images of nature (versus less beautiful images of nature) led participants to be more generous and trusting. In Study 4, exposure to more beautiful (versus less beautiful) plants in the laboratory room led participants to exhibit increased helping behavior. Across studies, we provide evidence that positive emotions and tendencies to perceive natural beauty mediate and moderate the association between beauty and prosociality. The current studies extend past research by demonstrating the unique prosocial benefits of beautiful nature.