Sounds of Nature in the City: No Evidence of Bird Song Improving Stress Recovery
Artikel i vetenskaplig tidskrift, 2019
Noise from city traffic is one of the most significant environmental stressors. Natural soundscapes, such as bird songs, have been suggested to potentially mitigate or mask noise. All previous studies on masking noise use self-evaluation data rather than physiological data. In this study, while respondents (n = 117) watched a 360° virtual reality (VR) photograph of a park, they were exposed to different soundscapes and mild electrical shocks. The soundscapes-"bird song", "bird song and traffic noise", and "traffic noise"-were played during a 10 min recovery period while their skin conductance levels were assessed as a measure of arousal/stress. No significant difference in stress recovery was found between the soundscapes although a tendency for less stress in "bird song" and more stress in "traffic noise" was noted. All three soundscapes, however, significantly reduced stress. This result could be attributed to the stress-reducing effect of the visual VR environment, to the noise levels being higher than 47 dBA (a level known to make masking ineffective), or to the respondents finding bird songs stressful. Reduction of stress in cities using masking with natural sounds requires further studies with not only larger samples but also sufficient methods to detect potential sex differences.