Psychological measurement methods

Last changed: 24 January 2023

Below is an overview of various methods that can be used to measure psychological health effects in connection with a stay in nature. They are largely based on the theories that underlie nature's health-promoting effects and most have been used with good results in previous research.




Evaluation of emotional, affective state

POMS (Profile of Mood States), PANAS (Positive and Negative Affect Scale)

Both POMS and PANAS consist of questionnaires that contain lists of different emotional expressions. The person estimates the extent to which the feeling has occurred recently. The instruments have been used in sports medicine to detect overtraining, but also in environmental psychological research. The number of emotional expressions can vary in different versions of the instruments.

Reference POMS - McNair, D. M., Lorr, M., and Droppleman, L. F. (1971). Manual for the Profile of Mood States (POMS). San Diego: Educational and Industrial Testing Service. Reference PANAS - Watson, D., Clark, L. A., & Tellegen, A. (1988). Development and validation of brief measures of positive and negative affect: The PANAS scales. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 54 (6), 1063–1070.

ZIPERS (Zuckerman Inventory or Personal Reactions)

The questionnaire contains 12 statements that measure the individual's feelings and level of anxiety at a given time. It has been used in environmental psychological research. The results are usually divided into five factors; 1/ fear, 2/ positive affect, 3/ anger, 4/ attention - coping ability, and 5/ sadness - melancholy.

Reference - Zuckerman M, Development of a situation – specific trait-state test for the prediction and measurement of affective responses. J Consult Clin Psychol 1977 Aug; 45 (4): 513-23.

Mood survey

This is a simple questionnaire designed to work well in connection with outdoor stays. It is based on different emotions or moods in the same way as in POMS and ZIPERS, but focuses on emotions that you can expect to see effects on when being exposed to natural environments. It consists of 6 questions on a 10-point scale and with two endpoints for each question; tense - relaxed, tired - alert, sad - happy, irritated - harmonious, restless - calm, divided - clear-minded. Read more about the mood survey here.

Sonntag-Öström E, Nordin, M, Slunga Järvholm L, Lundell Y, Brännström R, Dolling A. 2011. Can the boreal forest be used for rehabilitation and recovery from stress-related exhaustion? A pilot study. Scandinavian Journal of Forest Research 26: 245-256


A questionnaire with 12 questions that measure mental state. It has mainly been used in working life to measure emotions related to stress and energy. It has not yet been used to any great extent in research to measure health effects of nature, but should be able to work well.

Experience of recovery in nature

PRS (Perceived Restorativeness Scale)

A questionnaire developed by Terry Hartig and based on ART (Attention Restoration Theory). It usually consists of 16 statements that measure four important components of the nature experience; 1/ "to be away from everyday life", 2/ opportunities for fascination, 3/ experience of a cohesive unity, and 4 /compatibility, ie. the environment meets my needs.

Reference - Terry Hartig, Florian G. Kaiser & Peter A. Bowler, Further development of a measure of perceived environmental restorativeness. Arbetsrapport / Working Paper No. 5. Uppsala University May 1997.

ROS (Restoration Outcome Scale)

This questionnaire usually consists of six questions that establish different dimensions of a restorative experience in the environment; relaxation, restored ability to pay attention, thoughts clear, and experience of vitality and self-confidence. It has been used in research on the restorative effects of natural environments.

Reference - Korpela KM, Ylén M, Tyrväinen L, Silvennoinen H. Determinants of restorative experiences in everyday favorite places. Health & Place 2008; 14: 636-652.

Neuropsychological tests

These tests are usually performed by psychologists and measure cognitive functions, e.g. ability to pay attention and remember. When you are out in nature, you should preferably use tests that are easy to perform. Some well-known tests in research about natural environments are the "Necker cube", Digit Span Forward, Digit Span Backward, and SDMT (The Symbol Digit Modalities Test) which is a decoding test. These tests measure focused attention, concentration and memory. It is important that the tests are performed in a standardized way in collaboration with a psychologist and/or researcher.

Reference - Ottosson J. The importance of the outdoor environment for the elderly with a great need for care. Edition 155 of Stad & Land (Alnarp 1982).

Qualitative interviews

There are different qualitative methods to use. The inductive method, which is commonly used in interviews, use primarily the content of the interviews to create a theory or model. With the deductive method, you apply an existing theory in order to be able to draw conclusions. You should have taken a course in qualitative methodology and collaborate with researchers who have experience of interviews. It is common to use an interview guide with fairly open-ended questions and to be prepared to go on with follow-up questions to get more information. In order to be able to make an accurate processing and analysis of the interviews, they should be recorded.

/Text: Lisbeth Slunga-Järvholm