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Abstract and specific physical attributes and the experience of landscape

Journal of Environmental Management
Publication Date
DOI: 10.1016/s0301-4797(05)80149-5
  • Landscape Experience
  • Knowledge Structures
  • Typicality
  • Familiarity
  • Affective Experience


Two experiments are reported which address the issue of how the experience of landscape relates to existing knowledge structures representing repeated, ongoing exposure to outdoor scenes generally within a particular geographic area—the “home” environment. The first experiment examines the question of whether the judged typicality of a landscape depends on the representation of the specific physical attributes characteristic of a “home” environment or whether such judgments are made on the basis of more abstract attributes which can be found in environments drawn from outside the “home” environment. The full range of typicality judgments was obtained for sets of outdoor scenes drawn from both types of environment indicating that the typicality of landscapes is related to abstract attributes. A second experiment then examined the relationship between sets of landscapes varying in their level of typicality selected from within and outside the “home” environment and judgments of familiarity, interest and preference as well as typicality. While typicality varied across the full range for both stimulus sets, the two sets were clearly discriminated in terms of their familiarity. In addition, the unfamiliar, outside set were judged to be more interesting and there was some indication of an overall preference for the landscapes from outside the home environment. When trends in the data across each landscape set for each type of environment were examined, interest and preference increased with typicality for the “home” set and familiarity decreased. By contrast, the “outside” set preference and interest were largely independent of variations in typicality. These results are interpreted in terms of the roles of abstract and specific information in making the different types of judgments in relation to each stimulus set. The implications of these results for models of the affective experience of the landscape and issues relating to decision-making about the environment are then discussed.

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