Effects of biophilic interventions in office on stress reaction and cognitive function: A randomized crossover study in virtual reality

Indoor Air. 2019 Nov;29(6):1028-1039. doi: 10.1111/ina.12593. Epub 2019 Sep 11.


Biophilia hypothesis suggests humans have an innate connection to nature which may affect our health and productivity. Yet we currently live in a world that is rapidly urbanizing with people spending most of their time indoors. We designed a randomized crossover study to let 30 participants experience three versions of biophilic design in simulated open and enclosed office spaces in virtual reality (VR). Throughout the VR session, we measured blood pressure, heart rate, heart rate variability, and skin conductance level and administered cognitive tests to measure their reaction time and creativity. Compared to the base case, participants in three spaces with biophilic elements had consistently lower level of physiological stress indicators and higher creativity scores. In addition, we captured the variation in the intensity of virtual exposure to biophilic elements by using eye-tracking technology. These results suggest that biophilic interventions could help reduce stress and improve creativity. Moreover, those effects are related to both the types of biophilic elements and may be different based on the workspace type (open vs enclosed). This research demonstrates that VR-simulated office spaces are useful in differentiating responses to two configurations and among biophilic elements.

Keywords: biomonitoring sensors; biophilic design; eye-tracking; human responses; virtual reality; workspace.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Air Pollution, Indoor / adverse effects
  • Air Pollution, Indoor / analysis
  • Cognition*
  • Cross-Over Studies
  • Environmental Health / methods
  • Facility Design and Construction / methods*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Occupational Exposure / adverse effects
  • Occupational Exposure / analysis
  • Occupational Health*
  • Stress, Physiological*
  • Virtual Reality
  • Workplace / psychology*
  • Young Adult