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The well-being of the workforce is clearly a matter of concern to the employer. Such concern translates to considerable costs in the form of fringe benefit packages, health promotion programs, ergonomics, and other ways to reduce absence and enhance health and satisfaction. Despite such efforts, however, one way to address well-being that entails relatively low costs has been largely ignored in the work context. Proximity and availability of the natural environment can foster many desired outcomes, even if the employee does not spend a great amount of time in the natural setting. A theoretical framework is presented that helps explain why even the view from the window can have a positive impact with respect to well-being. Results from two studies offer some substantiation. Further research on the role of nature in the workplace is essential; however, decisions to provide health promoting programs and to enhance fringe benefit packages have not been offered as a direct consequence of empirical verification. While providing windows at work may not be a simple matter, other ways to increase contact with vegetation may provide a low-cost, high-gain approach to employee well-being and effectiveness.

This Special Section features a number of perspectives on the vital role played by natural environments. The three empirical papers, using different approaches and measures, representing diverse populations in different countries, and different kinds of natural settings, all provide evidence for the importance of nature to human well-being. This paper presents the Reasonable Person Model (RPM) as a framework for understanding how the environment can help bring out the best in people. Demographic and regional variations notwithstanding, people are empowered by opportunities to make a difference and be respected, they are concerned with being effective, and their efforts are guided by their mental models. Having nature nearby, even if modest in scale, can be particularly beneficial in offsetting some of the consequences of depleted attentional resources which readily undermine reasonable behavior. We focus on some important distinctions between psychological restoration (and its relationship to the effectiveness domain of RPM) and environmental preference (and its connection to RPM's model building domain). Today's all too pervasive unreasonableness is costly in terms of personal and social well-being. Understanding the vital capacity of the natural environment can make a substantial difference in bringing out the best in people.

For over a decade, a wilderness outing program in Michigan's Upper Peninsula has been the object of continuing research focusing on the impact of an intense nature experience on people's lives. The results discussed here are based on the questionnaires completed by the 49 participants in the last two years of the Program. A consistently striking finding of this ongoing research program has been the richness of the psychological benefits obtained. Based on familiarity and preference ratings of photographs, reactions to the solo experience, and ratings of moods and feelings both before and at the conclusion of the Program, the results speak to the pervasive power of the wilderness environment experience. It is suggested that the implications of these findings may transcend the particular environment. The psychological dimensions reflected here are likely to be vital aspects of effective human functioning in other settings as well.

Some parks, preserves, and other natural areas serve people well; others are disappointing. Successful design and management requires knowledge of both people and environments.With People in Mind explores how to design and manage areas of "everyday nature" -- parks and open spaces, corporate grounds, vacant lots and backyard gardens, fields and forests -- in ways that are beneficial to and appreciated by humans. Rachel Kaplan and Stephen Kaplan, leading researchers in the field of environmental psychology, along with Robert Ryan, a landscape architect and urban planner, provide a conceptual framework for considering the human dimensions of natural areas and offer a fresh perspective on the subject. The authors examine physical aspects of natural settings that enhance preference and reduce fear ways to facilitate way-finding how to create restorative settings that allow people to recover from the stress of daily demands landscape elements that are particularly important to human needs techniques for obtaining useful public input