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23. Demographic Correlates of Landscape Preference

DescriptionThe study examines the influence of age, gender and residential experience on landscape preference ratings.

283 subjects were asked to rate five biomes (tropical rain forest, temperate deciduous forest, northern coniferous forest, savannah and desert.) Slides were selected which eliminated seasonal differences and which did not include any features such as water, animals, people or elements of human habitation which were known to influence preference. Therefore only one major landscape component was used: vegetation type.

The subjects ranged in age from 8-67 years and there was an even balance between males and females.


The research findings suggest that the development of landscape preference is a cumulative process sensitive to socio-economic factors. The authors conclude that social and demographic characteristics influence preference judgements. In summary the findings suggested that:

  • Preferences changed through the life cycle. Young children (6-12yrs) were more enthusiastic and less consistent than others. Between the ages of 12-20 there was a dip in preference levels generally. This rose again slightly after 20 yrs of age. From 36 yrs onwards there was a continuing, slow, downward trend in preference levels.
  • Preferences diverged in adolescence for males and females and for urban and rural residents. The influence of gender and residence on preference ratings was different for different age groups.
  • Preferences were highest for the most familiar biome.
  • Preference for savannah and coniferous forests were most variable as age increased.
  • No evidence was found to support the hypothesis that landscape preference is shaped by evolutionarily determined factors
PublishedEnvironment and Behavior, 15(4): 487-511
AuthorsLyons, E.
PublisherSage Publications, Inc.
Pricesubscription c. 183 p.a. (6)
Keywordslandscape preference (age); environmental preference; environmental aesthetics; demographic/social studies/preference/ natural environments

This study provides an interesting discussion of the cultural influences on preference. The research is closely related to a previous study by Balling and Falk (1982). Both studies revealed that overall preference for certain natural environments changed with age. Balling and Falk, (p22) conclude that there is some evidence to suggest that people have an innate preference for savannah-like environments. Lyons (p505-507) takes the view that the evidence for an innate, biologically heritable component of landscape preference has not been proved. Unlike Balling and Falk, (1982) who support the functionalist-evolutionary perspective of Kaplan (1972, 1976) and Ulrich (1977) for example, she interprets the variation in preference with age as evidence of the chronological change in contextual factors, (p507). Lyons cites the work of Kellert, (1978) and Zube et al. (1974) in support of the view that childhood experiences have an important bearing on later environmental attitudes.

Issues which Lyons identifies as being of particular interest in the management of landscape resources and in the understanding of divergent landscape preferences include:

  1. Why do gender differences in preferences for different biomes appear in adolescence?
  2. Why do landscape preferences in urban and rural residents diverge in adolescence?
  3. What effects do gender, socio-economic status, education, race and life-stage have on landscape preference? How do they interact?

(Note: work by Ward Thompson (1995) and Aspinall and Ujam (1992) has used Personal Construct Theory in an exploration of children's landscape experience.)


Aspinall, P. and Ujam, F. (1992). A Projective Approach to Designing with Children, Landscape Research 17(3): 124-131.

Balling, J.D. and Falk, J.H.(1982) Development of Visual Preference for Natural Environments Environment and Behavior 14 (1) :5-28

Kaplan, S. (1976). Adaption, Structure and Knowledge. G.T. Moore and G.G. Colledge, eds, Environment and Knowing: theories, research and methods. Stroudsburg, Pennsylvania: Dowden, Hutchison and Ross.

Kaplan, S. (1972) The challenge of environmental psychology: a proposal for a new functionalism. American Psychologist 27:140-143

Kellert, SR (1978) Perceptions of animals in American Society. The 41st North American Wildlife Conference Proceedings. pp533-546.

Ward Thompson, C., (1995). School Playground Design: A Projective Approach with Pupils and Staff. Landscape Research 30(3): 124-140.

Ulrich, RS (1977) Visual landscape preference: a model and applications. Man-Environment Systems 7: 279-293.

Zube, E.H., Pit, D.G. and Anderson, T.W., (1974) Perception and Measurement of Scenic Resources in the Southern Connecticut River Valley. Institute for Management and His. Environment No R-74-1, Amherst, Mass., 191pp.