Within the field of restorative environments research, it is commonly assumed that restorative responses, triggered by exposure to natural elements and settings, are ultimately adaptive traits originating from our species’ long evolutionary history in natural environments. The aim of this article is to critically investigate the viability of this evolutionary view on restoration. In doing so, we specifically focus on Stress Recovery Theory (SRT), as this theoretical framework has most extensively elaborated on the supposed evolutionary origins of restoration. A detailed analysis of SRT's psycho-evolutionary framework shows that neither current empirical evidence nor conceptual arguments provide any strong support for the hypothesis of restorative responses to nature as an ancient evolved adaptive trait. Based on this conclusion we put forward an alternative model for restorative responses to nature based on processing fluency, which prima facie circumvents some of the pitfalls associated with evolutionary accounts for restoration. The Discussion section reflects on the implications of our critical discussion for the theory and practice of urban forestry and urban greening.
- landscape preference
- stress recovery