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SAMPLE PAPER:The Effects of Nature/Plants on Stress

Introduction

The body comprises an interconnected network of physiological systems fine-tuned throughout evolution to achieve and preserve a relatively stable internal state – homeostasis (Everly & Lating, 2019). Sometimes this equilibrium will be in a state of disharmony arising from intrinsic, extrinsic, real, or perceived forces, known as stressors, which the body needs to counter to maintain or reestablish the threatened homeostasis (Tsigos et al., 2016; Cool & Zappetti, 2019). The disharmony reflects the body’s inability to allocate sufficient resources to restore the balance, meaning that the body is in a stressed state. When the brain perceives stress, it activates coordinated neurophysiological responses in the brain and the periphery to initiate behavioral and physiological responses that facilitate allostasis (stability through change) and adaptation (Cool & Zappetti, 2019). It takes place through a process referred to as adaptive stress response, which enhances resilience and facilitates coping mechanisms to prevent future adverse impacts from stress stimuli (Suri Vaidya, 2015). However, there is a notable variation in individual response mechanisms to stress, perhaps due to people’s uniqueness, which is why it would be prudent to consider this aspect when recommending stress management strategies. Consequently, the current review explores the significance and feasibility of nature/plants as a stress-reduction strategy.

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Role of Nature in Stress Management

Nature provides a range of services and benefits to the ecosystem, much of which past research has extensively covered. The least appreciated is perhaps the impact it has on psychological well-being and health through what Bratman et al. (2019) refer to as psychological ecosystem services. These services encompass a range of cognitive and psycho-physiological outcomes stemming from two mechanisms, considered to be the two primary environmental psychology theories (Jiang et al., 2020). 

Attention Restoration Theory (ART)

The first is Kaplan & Kaplan’s (1989, as cited in Ohly et al., 2016; Jiang et al., 2020) Attention Restoration Theory (ART). The basic premise underlying the theory is that natural environments contain elements that provide a relaxing space through which humans can relax and reduce mental fatigue, which helps restore voluntary/direct attention. Direct or voluntary attention refers to the human ability that allows people to pay attention to a particular task requiring effort (Ohly et al., 2016). However, this ability is finite and becomes exhausted with use, especially if overworked or overloaded with mental processes. For example, focusing requires the individual to exclude other thought stimuli from nearby environments. Voluntary attention makes this possible by suppressing distractions that may be inherently more interesting. Nonetheless, fatigue may set in when there is no motivational draw to rest or restore the ability. Attention fatigue leads to poor decision-making and self-control, potentially threatening individuals’ health through neural and behavioral pathways to cause conditions like obesity (Ohly et al., 2016). ART proposes that individuals experience nature as it offers a relaxing and refreshing environment that facilitates and enhances their ability to reflect and consider any unresolved issues. According to Jiang et al. (2020), the “softly fascinating” aspect associated with natural elements like trees, water, and sunsets helps capture an involuntary attention sphere in humans, which provides a means through which rest and recovery can take place. The reason is that the inherent characteristics associated with these elements that draw human interest require minimal mental effort to process, thus causing no strain on the voluntary human attention paid to them. 

Stress Reduction Theory (SRT)

The second is Ulrich’s (1991, as cited in Jiang et al., 2020) Stress Reduction Theory (SRT). The primary argument is that the natural environment presents an unthreatening setting that provides humans with the space to calm down, generate positive feelings, and reduce arousal. Ultimately, natural environments will promote stress recovery by reducing the adverse psychological and physiological signs of stress (Jiang et al., 2020). According to Ulrich et al. (1991), humans may not have the same capacity to recover from stress in artificial settings as natural ones because human evolution mostly occurs within the latter context. Essentially, the argument Ulrich drives with SRT is that the natural environment can improve individuals’ positive affect and attention following a stressful event. It can operate as a remedy or solution in stress management as the natural environment possesses certain qualities that provide the individual with an incentive to adapt due to the positive affective appraisals derived from them (Ratcliffe et al., 2013). These qualities can either be aesthetic or semantic. Aesthetic elements may feature as perceived complexity, patterns, texture, or environmental mystery, while semantic elements through such aspects as absent threats or resource availability. Whichever the case, human beings can make use of natural spaces to reduce stress because these inherent characteristics reduce blood pressure, lowers cortisol levels in the body, self-reported stress, and increases positive mood (Jiang et al., 2014; Ewert & Chang, 2018). The SRT and ART environmental psychology theories support the idea that nature facilitates restoration from mental fatigue, stress, and negative moods, thus improving individuals’ health and well-being. 

Literature Review

Several past authors have conducted tests and analyses to determine the relationship between nature and stress management, focusing on consequent impacts like performance, attention, health, and well-being. For example, Dravigne et al. (2008) sought to investigate whether having indoor plants in the office and having windows overlooking green landscapes could influence employees’ job satisfaction levels. The underlying motivation was that recreating a natural environment in the office or exposure to one could reduce employees’ stress levels by creating a calming and comfortable working environment to foster job satisfaction. The study results showed that employees perceive work environments exposed to nature as more comfortable, consequently influencing their job satisfaction and quality-of-life scores. A more recent study by Toyoda et al. (2019) corroborates the finding that plant or nature-oriented work environments enhance employee well-being by reducing office workers’ psychological and physiological stress. The author identified three levels of involvement that can help with promoting mental health in the workplace. These include passive observance, the prescribed activity of staring at the plant, and active involvement in selecting and caring for the office plant (Toyoda et al., 2019). These observations within a work setting context align with the SRT and ART functional mechanisms of stress management.

Nonetheless, the findings are not always consistent, as some authors find a very minimal association between nature exposure and improved performance and mental well-being. Bringslimark et al. (2007) carried out a study to explore the potential benefits of placing indoor plants in a work setting. The findings indicated a minimal association between nature exposure and proxies for employee well-being like self-reported stress, sick leaves, and productivity. These may infer that nature may not significantly impact mental health and well-being, as indicated in the SRT and ART theories. Authors like Korpela et al. (2017) and Lottrup et al. (2012) corroborate the outcomes by finding limited support for the link between employee well-being over time and nature exposure in a work setting. These investigations show that nature exposure studies can only explain a small portion of stress reduction variance within work settings. These studies may have differing opinions on the significance of nature/plant exposure in work settings to improve employee well-being and productivity. However, it is important to acknowledge that they do not return negative associations, meaning that nature exposure does have relevance in psychological and physiological balance. Furthermore, most people spend much time at work over their lifespans, inferring that these small associations could culminate in an overall significant impact in the long term. 

It would be plausible that the pattern is limited to the work and office setting context, so exploring other stress settings would be appropriate to elucidate the outcome in other stress-associated settings. However, partial positive findings are consistent with the meta-analytic review conducted by McMahan and Estes (2015). An excellent example is school and learning institution contexts. Here, class and learning settings, including high expectations for success, schoolwork, low performance, fear of failure, and conflict, impose pressure on students, possibly leading to stress (Deb et al., 2015; Hirvonen et al., 2019). In one study, Daly et al. (2010) investigated the impact that indoor plants would have on student reading, spelling, and analytical outcomes. The results reported a 10-14% improvement, which categorizes as significant progress by educationists. The results also exhibited a lack of change in one of the schools. However, it could be perhaps due to the active gardening program involving ornamental and vegetable species, meaning that students were already exposed to nature and had a continuing relationship with it compared to those introduced to nature during the investigation. 

Further studies have explored various other attributes related to the learning institution environment, focusing on performance, creativity, health, and well-being. The study by Studente et al. (2016) examined various attributes associated with nature, such as the use of live plants, nature views, and the color green and their impact on visual and verbal creativity. The results found that exposure to nature enhanced visual creativity among students and no impact on verbal creativity. There are three critical implications to these findings. The first is that it proves exposure to nature or green landscapes can improve creativity, which is a core tenet of performance as part of the critical thinking ability that enhances achievement (Gajda et al., 2017). The second inference is that creativity is domain-specific, meaning that practitioners must take caution in the approach used to mitigate stress. Some stress management methods may not have any impact if directed to the wrong domain (Studente et al., 2016). Nonetheless, the research does acknowledge that nature exposure has a positive impact on creativity but can also extrapolate to infer positive outcomes on well-being – the third implication. The assertion stems from Schutte et al.’s (2017) revelation that there is a significant relationship between visual stimulation or exposure to green landscapes and students’ positive affect and well-being. These observations 

Aside from the work and educational contexts, using nature in stress management has also received attention for its use in general contexts. Given the progression of contemporary living and conditions, there is a need to evaluate the consequence of nature exposure and interior plants’ use in practice.  The positive outcomes within learning institutions reflect those observed within the work context. Earlier studies like Lohr et al.’s (1996) observed a general impact of using interior plants on productivity. The research proved that plants and nature could resolve attention deficits and foster greater reaction times to tasks requiring some visual concentration. They can do so because the visual stimulation of plants possesses physiological and psychological relaxing effects, as observed in Ikei et al. (2014). The study recommended using foliage plants to help shift the sympathetic/parasympathetic balance to improve mood as a simple method strategy for reducing stress and improving mental health for high school students. 

Park & Mattson (2009) at a similar conclusion but within hospital settings, noting the therapeutic value possessed by plants in hospital environments. Plants provide a non-invasive, affordable, and effective complementary medicine for surgical patients. The authors recommended their use to medical practitioners to enhance the healing environment for their patients. Lee et al. (2015) explain how this therapeutic mechanism operates in their study The therapeutic mechanism through which this occurs. The authors found that using interior plants in places requiring significant mental effort can reduce mental strain. Plants suppress the sympathetic nervous system activity and diastolic blood pressure, thereby promoting comfortable, soothing, and natural feelings that enhance one’s self-control. In so doing, individuals can more realistically and practically engage tasks with optimal outcomes.

In conclusion, there appears to be a bulk of literature that supports the idea that exposure to nature, green landscapes, or the use of interior plants in different settings induce positive feelings and mood, reducing or preventing instances of stress among individuals. The available literature has not yet identified any observation suggesting a negative relationship as yet. However, more empirical research should help provide a more comprehensive and detailed understanding of the potential benefits natural environments provide when dealing with stress. Nonetheless, the current literature supports its use as a stress management approach, even with minimal improvements as there is no notable shortcoming or loss from its application.

References

Bratman, G. N., Anderson, C. B., Berman, M. G., Cochran, B., De Vries, S., Flanders, J., … & Daily, G. C. (2019). Nature and mental health: An ecosystem service perspective. Science advances5(7), eaax0903.

Bringslimark, T., Hartig, T., & Patil, G. G. (2007). Psychological benefits of indoor plants in workplaces: Putting experimental results into context. HortScience42(3), 581-587.

Cool, J., & Zappetti, D. (2019). The physiology of stress. In Medical Student Well-Being (pp. 1-15). Springer, Cham.

Daly, J., Burchett, M., & Torpy, F. (2010). Plants in the classroom can improve student performance. National interior plantscape association.

Deb, S., Strodl, E., & Sun, J. (2015). Academic stress, parental pressure, anxiety and mental health among Indian high school students. International Journal of Psychology and Behavioral Sciences5(1), 26-34.

Dravigne, A., Waliczek, T. M., Lineberger, R. D., & Zajicek, J. M. (2008). The effect of live plants and window views of green spaces on employee perceptions of job satisfaction. HortScience43(1), 183-187.

Everly, G. S., & Lating, J. M. (2019). The anatomy and physiology of the human stress response. In A clinical guide to the treatment of the human stress response (pp. 19-56). Springer, New York, NY.

Ewert, A., & Chang, Y. (2018). Levels of nature and stress response. Behavioral Sciences8(5), 49.

Gajda, A., Karwowski, M., & Beghetto, R. A. (2017). Creativity and academic achievement: A meta-analysis. Journal of Educational Psychology109(2), 269.

Hirvonen, R., Yli-Kivistö, L., Putwain, D. W., Ahonen, T., & Kiuru, N. (2019). School-related stress among sixth-grade students–Associations with academic buoyancy and temperament. Learning and Individual Differences70, 100-108.

Ikei, H., Song, C., Igarashi, M., Namekawa, T., & Miyazaki, Y. (2014). Physiological and psychological relaxing effects of visual stimulation with foliage plants in high school students. Advances in Horticultural Science, 111-116.

Jiang, B., Chang, C. Y., & Sullivan, W. C. (2014). A dose of nature: Tree cover, stress reduction, and gender differences. Landscape and Urban Planning132, 26-36.

Jiang, B., He, J., Chen, J., Larsen, L., & Wang, H. (2020). Perceived Green at Speed: A Simulated Driving Experiment Raises New Questions for Attention Restoration Theory and Stress Reduction Theory. Environment and Behavior, 0013916520947111.

Korpela, K., De Bloom, J., Sianoja, M., Pasanen, T., & Kinnunen, U. (2017). Nature at home and at work: Naturally good? Links between window views, indoor plants, outdoor activities and employee well-being over one year. Landscape and Urban planning160, 38-47.

Lee, M. S., Lee, J., Park, B. J., & Miyazaki, Y. (2015). Interaction with indoor plants may reduce psychological and physiological stress by suppressing autonomic nervous system activity in young adults: a randomized crossover study. Journal of Physiological anthropology34(1), 21.

Lohr, V. I., Pearson-Mims, C. H., & Goodwin, G. K. (1996). Interior plants may improve worker productivity and reduce stress in a windowless environment. Journal of environmental horticulture14(2), 97-100.

Lottrup, L., Stigsdotter, U. K., Meilby, H., & Corazon, S. S. (2012). Associations between use, activities and characteristics of the outdoor environment at workplaces. Urban Forestry & Urban Greening11(2), 159-168.

McMahan, E. A., & Estes, D. (2015). The effect of contact with natural environments on positive and negative affect: A meta-analysis. The Journal of Positive Psychology10(6), 507-519.

Ohly, H., White, M. P., Wheeler, B. W., Bethel, A., Ukoumunne, O. C., Nikolaou, V., & Garside, R. (2016). Attention Restoration Theory: A systematic review of the attention restoration potential of exposure to natural environments. Journal of Toxicology and Environmental Health, Part B19(7), 305-343.

Park, S. H., & Mattson, R. H. (2009). Ornamental indoor plants in hospital rooms enhanced health outcomes of patients recovering from surgery. The journal of alternative and complementary medicine15(9), 975-980.

Ratcliffe, E., Gatersleben, B., & Sowden, P. T. (2013). Bird sounds and their contributions to perceived attention restoration and stress recovery. Journal of Environmental Psychology36, 221-228.

Suri, D., & Vaidya, V. A. (2015). The adaptive and maladaptive continuum of stress responses–a hippocampal perspective. Reviews in the Neurosciences26(4), 415-442.

Toyoda, M., Yokota, Y., Barnes, M., & Kaneko, M. (2019). Potential of a Small Indoor Plant on the Desk for Reducing Office Workers’ Stress. HortTechnology1(aop), 1-9.

Tsigos, C., Kyrou, I., Kassi, E., & Chrousos, G. P. (2016). Stress, endocrine physiology and pathophysiology. In Endotext [Internet]. MDText. com, Inc..

Ulrich, R. S., Simons, R. F., Losito, B. D., Fiorito, E., Miles, M. A., & Zelson, M. (1991). Stress recovery during exposure to natural and urban environments. Journal of environmental psychology11(3), 201-230.

SAMPLE PAPER: A REPORT OF THE ANALYSIS AND FINDINGS FOR A QUALITATIVE MULTIPLE-CASE STUDY

Final Word Count:        X / 1300 words

RQ: How do sportswear clothing brands respond to the stakeholder pressure for more CSR? 

1.  How did companies respond to the arising stakeholder pressure that comes by effectively conducting responsible and effective CSR? 

2.  How did companies deal with the social impact of CSR?

3. How did companies adapt with the new protocols to help cope with stakeholders’ expectations in regards to CSR? 

PART A: ANALYTICAL STRATEGY

i) Explain and justify the analytical strategy suitable for the proposed qualitative multiple-case study research design in the Group Assignment. Insert the codebook for the study in Appendix 1.

Think about the topics we covered in the class related to chapter 5 of Yin (2014) and chapter 4 of Miles et al. (2013). The supplementary sources in the Qualitative Research Design Readings are also of interest for this task.

Recommended word count: 200 words

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SAMPLE ESSAY: Stakeholder Pressure for CSR among Sportswear Clothing Brands

Introduction

            Pressure from stakeholders occurs in diverse ways and on critical issues of governance, sustainable development protocols of environmental concerns, and in the reporting and management concerns. For instance, governance oversight agencies often seek responsive management and corporate leadership to eliminate sweatshop practices. The sourcing of materials and components for the production of diverse garments and dyes ought to respect established environmental protection rules. The UN Global Compact and sustainability indices are a vital international benchmark mechanism for rating and ranking organizations on their impact on society through their strategic initiatives on CSR. The need to comply with stakeholder demands is paramount to the success of the businesses because the industry is highly profitable, and varied stakeholders have diverse conflicts that require effective deliberation and apportionment of responsibilities on ethical concerns. Pressure from stakeholders thus implies the corporations have to constantly invest in suitable promotion, effective public relations, and suitable brand management through direct initiatives of CSR.   

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Sample Essay: Theory of Mind Article Summary

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), schizophrenia affects 1 in 300 (approximately 24 million) people worldwide, causing psychosis and compromising their cognitive capacity, behavior, and moods (World Health Organization). The article Theory of Mind in Schizophrenia by Mirjam Sprong, Patricia Schothorst, Ellen Vos, Joop Hox, and Herman Van Engeland investigates the theory of mind and its relationship to schizophrenia, concluding that the “theory of mind is impaired in individuals with schizophrenia” (Sprong et al. 5). The primary goal of the article is to “assess the magnitude of the deficit and analyze associated factors,” as well as to “investigate the extent of mentalizing impairment in people with schizophrenia” (Sprong et al. 5,10). 

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Sample Essay: Article Summary

Stereotypes have long been known to have negative consequences for those exposed to them because stereotypes are based on broad assumptions that are frequently incorrect. The article Stereotype Danger and Women’s Math Performance by Steven J. Spencer, Claude M. Steele, and Diane M. Quinn investigates the topic of stereotype threat in women’s math performance. According to Spencer, Steele, and Quinn (1999), “No other science has been more concerned with the nature of prejudice and stereotyping than social psychology,” which has extensively studied the content of stereotypes and their impact on social perceptions and behavior (p. 5). 

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Sample Paper: Non-Profit Budgeting

Introduction
The Women’s Center for Advancement (WCA) is concerned with domestic violence, sexual assault, stalking, and human trafficking nonprofit located in Omaha, Nebraska (WCA, 2020). Like other nonprofit organizations, the COVID-19 pandemic has adversely affected WCA’s business cycles on revenues and expenses. WCA should deal with mismatches between revenues and expenses by reducing spending or delaying investments. NGOs invest in impact investments of initiatives that benefit society and in return, provide financial returns (IFC, 2020). NGOs have the infrastructure and expertise that attract Investors looking to make positive social or environmental impacts in society. Delayed investments imply that WCA will reduce its spending on the impact projects.

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Sample Paper: Diversity and its Challenges in the Healthcare Sector

Introduction
The ethnic and racial configuration of the U.S. populations into the future will be diverse and to create a truly sustainable and prosperous nation, diversity and inclusion must be effectively entrenched as a matter of public policy. Diversity has a critical value in the healthcare sector in the United States because it has been a federal policy to expand access and inclusivity particularly in the key public sectors of education and health. Diversity has the positive effect of increasing access to medical care for underserved populations and such populations will see physicians and general practitioners with whom they share culture or ethnicity. Globally, and across the United States, increased international immigration has yielded multiculturalism within every local community and society should adjust, particularly in the fields of medical services to embrace diversity and inclusion to ensure a future of progress (Hokkanen & Löf, 2019). Within a medical facility, increasing the workforce diversity from 10 percent to a possible 30 percent is a critical developmental milestone. The benefits of such a policy are numerous because an inclusive workforce has a higher chance for higher productivity because of the convergence of diverse views, cultural competencies, and greater readiness to render quality care for diverse populations and demographics due to a cultivated culture of tolerance.

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Sample Paper: Self Esteem in Organisations

Many organizations can astoundingly improve their productivity and profitability by considering ways to improve their workforce’s self-esteem. Self-esteem is regarded as the product of self-efficacy and self-respect, and people with high self-esteem tend to yield better in the face of diverse task challenges within organizations or communities. Effective organizations should consider mechanisms of improving and ensuring high self-esteem and self-respect within their workforce (Abdel-Khalek, 2016). Organizations work as communities. Therefore, it is imperative to consider culture as a holistic pact; thus, talent management and recruitment programs prioritize useful aspects of individual social functioning within the organization. Moreover, leadership styles and management choices have to reflect the need to cultivate self-esteem components in the organizational process.

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Sample Paper: African Americans Adjustment to Freedom

            Slavery of the African Americans may have the status of having been the most horrible economic relations history has ever witnessed. Still, its social consequences over the years, even after the Emancipation, have become even more daunting. Houston Hartsfield framed it even grotesquely, that “The colored people did not know how to be free, and the white people did not know how to have a free colored person about them.” Even in the aftermath of Emancipation, distrust, violence, and horrid conditions remained the common plight of the freedmen[1]. A lot of reconstruction work went into bridging the gaps and making race relations normal for many years with no avail. The Civil Rights Movement led by Rev. Martin Luther King in the 1960s at least made considerable progress, but among poor African American populations, discrimination and racial prejudice remain the hallmark of their American experience. In underscoring the plight of the freedmen, it is important to highlight the bleak institutional systems and the legal frameworks as well as the economic circumstances of the freedmen.   

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Sample Paper: Information Technology

Society is characterized by disruptive technologies, and the leading among them are Artificial Intelligence (AI), machine learning, and Blockchain. It is expected that once the full potentials of supercomputing is achieved through ongoing research, a major shift in society will result because the computing power will perform amazing tasks with great simplicity and ease (Bughin et al., 2019). Machine learning enables diverse robotic and mechanical automation to be executed. Machines can be exposed to routine encounters using a massive amount of data to learn how to execute intelligent motion. Machine learning and artificial intelligence enable many hybrid and innovative functions to be inbuilt in automatic processes like in the vending machines and autonomous vehicles. Artificial intelligence and Machine learning are currently the most disruptive technologies in society because they have created massive automation in diverse fields and have supported the erection of computing systems in research where human capacity and operations would be severely limited. Giga factories with large-scale robotic and automated machine operations depend effectively on Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning.   

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