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22. Comparing Live Experience with Pictures in Articulating Landscape Preference

DescriptionThis study investigated the affect of live experience on people's perception of landscape. The results were then contrasted with the same group of people's responses to photographs of the same type of scenes.
MethodologyTwenty-five respondents were taken along a trail in southern Indiana through sixteen representative settings, providing ratings for each. They were asked to articulate their feelings about the sites. The same group repeated the study in a laboratory using slides.

The study concluded that preferred landscape compositions, and the degree of preference stated, differed between laboratory and field conditions:

  • peoples' ability to rate a scene for preference increased under field conditions;
  • peoples' preferences in laboratory conditions were more divergent;
  • verbal descriptions indicate that tactile and dynamic factors contribute to preference;
  • a five point preference system is too narrow for rating preference in the field;
  • the sequence of experience is an important factor in determining preference;
  • verbal data collected indicated a decreased ability to articulate preference in a laboratory situation.
PublishedLandscape Research, 17, (2): 58-69
AuthorsKroh, P.D. and Gimblett, R.H.
PublisherLandscape Research Group Ltd.
Pricesubscription 114 p.a. (3)
Keywordscognition; multi-sensory experience; landscape preference; environmental preference;

One of the most significant findings of this study is the importance of the contextual information acquired as people move through the landscape. The sequence of the unfolding landscape can also influence preferences.

This study attempts to provide a methodological framework for assessing, categorising and interpreting experiential data. It concludes:

  1. Multi-sensory, on-site experience of landscape can be articulated and analysed;
  2. People respond differently to on-site landscape experience than they do to simulations.
  3. Verbal response can provide dynamic contextual information which can be used to define preference;
  4. The recall of experience was less than expected. Respondents did not reveal any memory of the experiential qualities of the site in their subsequent description in the laboratory tests. (see also Pocock, 1982, for comparisons between on-site experience and subsequent recall)

If accurate measures of preference are to be obtained from photographs or slides, allowance must be made for the absence of stimuli and remembered experience in forming predictive models, (p68).

The researchers do acknowledge that a number of papers support the use of photographs or slides as substitutes for field research in environmental preference studies. Stamps (1990), from an analysis of research papers comparing data collected in the field with research using photographic simulation, takes the view that photographs can accurately represent landscape. Shuttleworth (1980) concluded from a review of previous research that there was no significant difference in preference between landscapes viewed in the field and colour photographs (although the reactions to black and white images were significantly different).

However, Kroh and Gimblett (p60) point out that much of the research into the use of photographs is concerned with visual preferences and ignores the multi-sensory experience. Hetherington, et al (1993) concluded that the influence of sound and motion on preference varied with the type of landscape: replication of sound and motion were more important in studies of dynamic riverscapes than in more static environments.


Hetherington et al (1993) Is motion more important than it sounds?: the medium of presentation in environmental research. Journal of Environmental Psychology 13, 283-291.

Pocock, D.C.D. (1982)The view from the bridge: experience and recall of landscape. Occasional Paper (New Series) No17, Dept of Geography, University of Durham. 1982.

Shuttleworth, S., (1980), The Use of Photographs as an Environmental Presentation Medium in Landscape Studies. Journal of Environmental Management 11:61-76.

Stamps A.E. (1990) Use of Photographs as an Environmental Presentation Medium in Landscape Studies, Journal of Environmental Management, 38, 115-132.