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DETERMINANTS OF ENVIRONMENTAL PREFERENCE: AN EMPIRICAL, COMPARATIVE STUDY OF TWO THEORIES

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Disciplines
  • Ecology
  • Geography
  • Psychology

Abstract

In the domain of environmental perception and evaluation several theoretical positions are being developed. One prominent theory is that of Kaplan and Kaplan, who focus on structural or informational qualities of the landscape. Their main hypotheses are summarized in the Landscape Preference Model. These state respectively: - preference for landscapes is dependent on the satisfaction of two separate needs, understanding and exploration; - satisfaction of these two needs is in a linear way dependent on the perceived presence of four characteristics of the landscape: Coherence, Complexity, Legibility and Mystery; - Coherence and Compexity are mutually independent perceived landscape properties: the same applies to Legibility and Mystery.The other theory is being developed by Purcell. It is strongly based on the work on categorization as done by Rosch, Tversky and Hemenway, and others. Purcell's theory has, as a main hypothesis, that preference for an environment (landscape, building etc.) is dependent on the psychological distance between the environment perceived and the prototype of the category it is considered to belong to. Preference wil be strongest if the environment perceived is slightly different from the prototype.Research Goal Investigating differences and potential similarities of the theories described, as discovered in the data, with, as an ultimate goal, to come to a synthesis.Method Two sets of environments were rated; the first is a group of (slides of) rural environments (N=76), the other a group of urban scenes (N=44). All environments were rated on the four properties of the Landscape Preference Model, on prototypicality and preference. Panels of 12 university students have rated the six properties described, each panel rating only one of the variables.Results for rural environments 1. Results show a marked discrepancy between theories to explain environmental preference, in favor of Kaplan and Kaplan's theory. 2. The relationship between prototypicality and preference appears to be curvilelinear, as predicted by Purcell. 3. The concept of Prototypicality adds explanatory power to the four characteristics of the Landscape Preference Model in the explanation of preference. Prototypicality is not well explained by the four informational qualities. For rural landscapes only the variable Order (taken from the Coherence concept) is related to prototypicality, the others are not.

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