Are Cities Draining Our Mental Energy?

New York City Neon Signs photo

Cities Are Attention Whores
Cities bring a lot of benefits to their inhabitants, but we haven’t evolved to live in them and that has an impact on many facets of our lives, including our mental health.

Just being in an urban environment, [scientists] have found, impairs our basic mental processes. […]

A city is so overstuffed with stimuli that we need to constantly redirect our attention so that we aren’t distracted by irrelevant things, like a flashing neon sign or the cellphone conversation of a nearby passenger on the bus. This sort of controlled perception — we are telling the mind what to pay attention to — takes energy and effort. The mind is like a powerful supercomputer, but the act of paying attention consumes much of its processing power. [This depletes our ability to focus and interferes with our self-control].

It will be unsurprising to anyone who has studied evolutionary psychology to learn that a good way to give your brain a break is to spend some time in a natural setting. In fact, some studies show that just looking at some trees or grass through a window or on a picture can be beneficial.

I wonder if house plants can have the same effect…

In any case, this is just one of many examples among man-made systems that we could design better using knowledge of our brains and bodies and the evolutionary forces that shaped them.

Source: Boston Globe

Photo: Trey Ratcliff

One Response to “Are Cities Draining Our Mental Energy?”

  1. crazyasuka Says:

    I like big cities. But it’s true, we didn’t evolve to live in them. Every now and then it’s good to give our brains a break. In front of my house there’s a big park, it’s good enough for me to relax a little.

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