Cecilia Stenfors

Cecilia Stenfors


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Works at Department of Psychology
Telephone 08-16 38 92
Visiting address Frescati Hagväg 14
Room 353
Postal address Psykologiska institutionen 106 91 Stockholm

About me

I am an associate professor/docent in psychology, researcher and PI of the Stenfors Lab, in the Biological Psychology division, at the Department of Psychology at Stockholm University, and affiliated at Aging Research Center, Karolinska Institute.

My research interests broadly focus on the determinants of cognitive functioning and state performance dynamics as well as mental health and wellbeing. Factors and strategies which affect cognitive functioning and performance, restoration, and well-being in the short term and across the life span, is an overarching theme in my work.

Factors I study span external environment factors—physical (incl. natural vs urban environment exposures, occupational environment) and psychosocial (e.g. work situation)— to inner psychological and biological/physiological processes (e.g. cardiovascular, inflammatory, genetic). I use epidemiological and experimental study designs and mainly quantitative methods.

Several of my current research projects focus on how different natural and urban environment exposures affect cognitive performance, restoration, affective states and health, stress and wellbeing in different individuals and groups, using experimental and epidemiological research methods.

After obtaining my doctoral degree, I worked as a post-doctoral researcher at the Aging Research Center at Karolinska Institutet, and as a post-doctoral research fellow at the University of Chicago in the Environmental Neuroscience Lab (funded by an international postdoc grant from the Swedish Research Council), where my research has focused on these topics.



The Swedish Research Council (VR)

The Swedish Research Council for Sustainable Development (Formas)


PhD students

Yannick Klein


External collaborators

Marc Berman, Associate professor, Environmental neuroscience, University of Chicago, IL, USA.

James T. Enns, Department of Psychology, University of Bristish Columbia, BC, Canada.

Gregory Bratman, Assistant Professor, Environmental & Forest Sciences, University of Washington, WA, USA.

James Gross, Professor & Director of the Stanford Psychophysiology Laboratory, Stanford University, CA, USA.

Matilda van den Bosch, Associate Professor, Occupational & Environmental Health, University of British Columbia, Canada.

Claudine Berr, Professor, MD,  Epidemiology, INSERM and Montpellier University, France.

Mare Löhmus Sundström, The Institute of Environmental Medicine, Karolinska Institute, Sweden.

Jonas Persson, Professor, Cogntiive neuroscience, Örebro Universitet & Karolinska Institutet, Sweden.

Walter Osika, Associate Professor, MD, Center for Social Sustainability, Karolinska Institute, Sweden.

Patrik Grahn, Professor, Landscape architecture, Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences; Sweden.

Lena Lid Falkman, Stockholm School of Economics, Sweden.

Susanna Toivanen, Professor, Mälardalens Högskola.

Töres Theorell, Professor emeritus, Karolinska Institutet.

Linda Magnusson Hanson, Associate Professor, Epidemiology, Stress Research Institute, Stockholm University, Sweden.

Hugo Westerlund, Professor, Epidemiology, Stress Research Institute, Stockholm University.


Education & training

I earned my Bachelor and Master’s degree in Psychology at the University of St Andrews, UK (2007), and my Doctoral degree in Psychology at the Department of Psychology and the Stress Research Institute at Stockholm University (2014). I studied statistical methods at the ICPSR at the University of Michigan as part of my doctoral training, and did fMRI training at the University of Michigan, as part of my post-doctoral training.




Meidenbauer, K., Stenfors, C.U.D., Gregory N. Bratman, G.N., Gross, J.J., Kathryn E. Schertz, K. E., Choe, K.W., Berman, M.G. (2020) The Affective Benefits of Nature Exposure: What’s Nature Got to Do with It? Journal of Environmental Psychology, 101498, ISSN 0272-4944.

Open access, final accepted manuscript at:

Stenfors, C.U.D, Van Hedger, S. C., Schertz, K. E., Meyer, F., Smith, K. E., Norman, G., Bourrier, S. C., Enns, J. T., Kardan, O., Jonides, J., & Berman, M. G. (2019) Positive effects of nature on cognitive performance across multiple experiments: Test order but not affect modulates the cognitive effects. Frontiers in Psychology, 10:1413.

Open acces at

Meidenbauer, K.L., Stenfors, C.U.D., Young, J., Layden, E.A., Schertz, K.E., Kardan, O., Decety, J. and Berman, M.G., (2019). The gradual development of the preference for natural environments. Journal of Environmental Psychology, p.101328.

Open access, final accepted manuscript at:

Meidenbauer, K.L., Stenfors, C.U.D., Ingram, M., & Berman, M. (2019) A tablet-based task for assessing environmental preferences in children and adults. Methods X, 6, 1901-1906.

Open access at:

Persson, J., & Stenfors, C. (2018). Superior cognitive goal maintenance in carriers of genetic markers linked to reduced striatal D2 receptor density (C957T and DRD2/ANKK1-TaqIA). PloS one, 13(8), e0201837. PMID: 30125286.

Bäcklander, G., Rosengren, C., Falkman, L.L., Stenfors, C., Seddigh, A., Osika, W. and Stenström, E. (2018). Navigating the Activity Based Working Environment–Relationships of Self-Leadership, Autonomy and Information Richness with Cognitive Stress and Performance. Scandinavian Journal of Work and Organizational Psychology3(1).

Horwitz, E. B., Stenfors, C., & Osika, W. (2018). Writer's Block Revisited: A Micro-Phenomenological Case Study on the Blocking Influence of an Internalized Voice. Journal of Consciousness Studies25(3-4), 9-28.

Stenfors, C., Jonsdottir, I., Magnusson Hanson, L.L., Theorell, T. (2017) Associations between systemic pro-inflammatory markers, cognitive function and cognitive complaints in a population-based sample of working adults. Journal of Psychosomatic Research, 96, 49-59. PMID: 28545793.

Stenfors, C., Theorell, T., Magnusson Hanson, L. & Osika, W. (2016). Executive Cognitive Functioning & Cardiovascular Autonomic Regulation in a Population-Based sample of Working Adults. Frontiers in Psychology, 7, 1536. PMID: 27761124.

Seddigh, A, Stenfors, C., Berntson, E, Bååth, R, Sikström, S, & H, Westerlund. (2015) The association between office design and performance on demanding cognitive tasks, Journal of Environmental Psychology.

Stenfors, C, Marklund, P, Hanson, LLM, Theorell, T, Nilsson, L-G. (2014) Are subjective cognitive complaints related to memory functioning in the working population? BMC Psychology, 2:3.

Stenfors C, Marklund P, Magnusson Hanson LL, Theorell T, Nilsson L-G (2013). Subjective Cognitive Complaints and the Role of Executive Cognitive Functioning in the Working Population: A Case-Control Study. PLoS ONE 8(12): e83351. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0083351.

PMID: 24386185.

Stenfors, C, Hanson, LLM, Theorell, T, Oxenstierna, G, & Nilsson, L-G (2013). Psychosocial Working Conditions and Cognitive Complaints among Swedish Employees. PLoS ONE, 8(4). doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0060637. PMID: 23560101.

Bojner Horwitz, E, Stenfors, C, and Osika, W. (2013) Contemplative inquiry in movement- Managing writer's block in academic writing. International journal of transpersonal psychology.

Oxenstierna, G, Magnusson Hanson, LL, Widmark, M, Finnholm, K, Stenfors, C, Elofsson, S, and Theorell,T. (2011) Conflicts at Work- The Relationship with Workplace Factors, Work Characteristics and Self-rated Health. Industrial Health, 49:4, pp. 501-510.



Stenfors C, Bojner Horwitz E, Theorell T, Osika W. (2018) Similarities, disparities, and synergies with other complex interventions. In: Oxford Textbook of Nature and Public Health - The Role of Nature in Improving the Health of a Population. Editors: M. van den Bosch & W. Bird. Oxford University Press.

Stenfors, C. (2018). Naturliga vägar till mänsklig, social och ekologisk hållbarhet. Socialmedicinsk tidskrift, 95(2), 141-149.

Stenfors, C. (2013) Subjective cognitive complaints in the working population- the influence of cognitive functioning and working conditions. Doctoral thesis in Psychology, Stockholm University.

Stenfors, C. (2014) Hjärnhälsa- om stress och stärkande aktiviteter. Bokkapitel i Kulturhälsoboxen, red. Eva Bojner Horwitz. Gothia förlag.


My teaching activities include teaching and supervision from basic to advanced level in psychology and environmental medicine, including e.g. research supervision, essay supervision at various levels, teaching in cogntitive psychology, environmental and occupational psychology, stress, neuropsychological testing, and statistical methods.


A selection from Stockholm University publication database
  • 2013. Cecilia U. D. Stenfors (et al.). PLoS ONE 8 (4), e60637

    Background: Cognitive complaints involving problems with concentration, memory, decision-making and thinking are relatively common in the work force. The sensitivity of both subjective and objective cognitive functioning to common psychiatric conditions, stress levels and to cognitive load makes it plausible that psychosocial working conditions play a role in cognitive complaints. Thus, this study aimed to test the associations between psychosocial work factors and cognitive complaints in nationally representative samples of the Swedish work force. Cross-sectional (n = 9751) and prospective (n = 3644; two time points two years apart) sequential multiple regression analyses were run, adjusting for general confounders, depressive-and sleeping problems. Additional prospective analyses were run adjusting for baseline cognitive complaints. Cross-sectional results: High quantitative demands, information and communication technology (ICT) demands, underqualification and conflicts were positively associated with cognitive complaints, while social support, good resources at work and overqualification were negatively associated with cognitive complaints in all models. Skill discretion and decision authority were weakly associated with cognitive complaints. Conflicts were more strongly associated with cognitive complaints in women than in men, after adjustment for general confounders. Prospective results: Quantitative job demands, ICT demands and underqualification were positively associated with future cognitive complaints in all models, including when adjusted for baseline cognitive complaints. Decision authority was weakly positively associated with future cognitive complaints, only after adjustment for depressive-and sleeping problems respectively. Social support was negatively associated with future cognitive complaints after adjustment for general confounders and baseline cognitive complaints. Skill discretion and resources were negatively associated with future cognitive complaints after adjustment for general confounders. The associations between quantitative demands and future cognitive complaints were stronger in women. Discussion/Conclusions: The findings indicate that psychosocial working conditions should be taken into account when considering cognitive complaints among employees.

  • 2013. Cecilia U. D. Stenfors (et al.). PLoS ONE 8 (12), UNSP e83351

    Background: Cognitive functioning is important for managing work and life in general. However, subjective cognitive complaints (SCC), involving perceived difficulties with concentration, memory, decision making, and clear thinking are common in the general and working population and can be coupled with both lowered well-being and work ability. However, the relation between SCC and cognitive functioning across the adult age-span, and in the work force, is not clear as few population-based studies have been conducted on non-elderly adults. Thus, the present study aimed to test the relation between SCC and executive cognitive functioning in a population-based sample of employees. Methods: Participants were 233 employees with either high (cases) or low (controls) levels of SCC. Group differences in neuropsychological test performance on three common executive cognitive tests were analysed through a set of analyses of covariance tests, including relevant covariates. Results & Conclusions: In line with the a priori hypotheses, a high level of SCC was associated with significantly poorer executive cognitive performance on all three executive cognitive tests used, compared to controls with little SCC. Additionally, symptoms of depression, chronic stress and sleeping problems were found to play a role in the relations between SCC and executive cognitive functioning. No significant associations remained after adjusting for all these factors. The current findings contribute to an increased understanding of what characterizes SCC in the work force and may be used at different levels of prevention of- and intervention for SCC and related problems with executive cognitive functioning.

  • 2019. Cecilia U. D. Stenfors (et al.). Frontiers in Psychology 10

    Interactions with natural environments and nature-related stimuli have been found to be beneficial to cognitive performance, in particular on executive cognitive tasks with high demands on directed attention processes. However, results vary across different studies. The aim of the present paper was to evaluate the effects of nature vs. urban environments on cognitive performance across all of our published and new/unpublished studies testing the effects of different interactions with nature vs. urban/built control environments, on an executive-functioning test with high demands on directed attention-the backwards digit span (BDS) task. Specific aims in this study were to: (1) evaluate the effect of nature vs. urban environment interactions on BDS across different exposure types (e.g., real-world vs. artificial environments/stimuli); (2) disentangle the effects of testing order (i.e., effects caused by the order in which experimental conditions are administered) from the effects of the environment interactions, and (3) test the (mediating) role of affective changes on BDS performance. To this end, data from 13 experiments are presented, and pooled data-analyses are performed. Results from the pooled data-analyses (N = 528 participants) showed significant time-by-environment interactions with beneficial effects of nature compared to urban environments on BDS performance. There were also clear interactions with the order in which environment conditions were tested. Specifically, there were practice effects across environment conditions in first sessions. Importantly, after parceling out initial practice effects, the positive effects of nature compared to urban interactions on BDS performance were magnified. Changes in positive or negative affect did not mediate the beneficial effects of nature on BDS performance. These results are discussed in relation to the findings of other studies identified in the literature. Uncontrolled and confounding order effects (i.e., effects due to the order of experimental conditions, rather than the treatment conditions) may explain some of the inconsistent findings across studies the literature on nature effects on cognitive performance. In all, these results highlight the robustness of the effects of natural environments on cognition, particularly when confounding order effects have been considered, and provide a more nuanced account of when a nature intervention will be most effective.

  • Cecilia U.D. Stenfors (et al.). PLoS ONE
Show all publications by Cecilia Stenfors at Stockholm University

Last updated: November 12, 2020

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