Many studies have supported the proposition that natural environments contribute positively to psychological restoration. Less attention has been given to the relative importance of the physical environmental components that contribute to the restorative potential of such environments. The aim of the current study was to investigate the relative importance of environmental components, in small urban parks, for people looking for somewhere to sit down and rest. To address this aim, we used choice-based conjoint analysis, coupled with hierarchical Bayes estimation, to assess the utilities assigned to grass, bushes, trees, flower beds, water features, and the number of other people in the park. Via a web-based questionnaire, adult residents of Oslo, Norway (N= 154) were presented with text describing successive pairs of park alternatives. Each alternative was comprised of a set of environmental components at different levels. The respondents were to choose the preferred alternative in each pair, given that they were fatigued and looking for a place to rest for a little while. The amounts of grass, trees and other people had the most influence on their choices among park alternatives. Responses across groups defined by age, gender and earlier experience with parks and nature were relatively homogenous. From a planning perspective, the findings indicate the importance of focusing on structural components such as grass and trees rather than decorative components such as flowers and water features. © 2011 Elsevier GmbH.
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