Birdsong: Can robins’ cheeriups cheer us up?

American Robin, Stevens Creek County Park, CA
Copyright 2011 William Walker,

I’m trying to write this post, but I can’t concentrate. I’ve got a few dozen other things on my mind. So I walk outside. I stand under a magnolia tree in my yard, and I listen. That’s because I’ve just been Skyping with Eleanor Ratcliffe, a Ph.D. student at the University of Surrey. She’s researching the effects of birdsong on people’s well being.

“Ever since I started studying psychology, I’ve been interested in the relationships between people and the environment,” Ratcliffe says. “We know about how nature can help people who are mentally fatigued or distressed recover their attention and feel less stressed and positive, but most of that evidence comes from visual pictures. You put people in front of a screen and show them rolling hills. But there’s been little focus on other modalities of nature.”

To help fill this gap in the research, Ratcliffe is conducting a three-year study to see if the sounds of robin cheeriups or pigeon coos might benefit humans. National Trust, a charity that works to protect green spaces and historic sites in the United Kingdom, and Surrey Wildlife Trust, are partners. Continue reading