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40. Landscape Perception: Research, Application and Theory

DescriptionThis paper presents an analysis of the paradigms that have been followed in assessing perceived landscape values, and identifies the theoretical or conceptual bases which underlie these approaches.
MethodologyCritical review: 'Four paradigms are identified from a review of over 160 articles during the period 1965-80. Publications in each paradigm (expert, psychophysical, cognitive and experiential) are reviewed with reference to contributions to pragmatic landscape planning and management issues and to the evolution of a general theory of landscape perception.'

Zube proposes a theoretical framework to guide future research to look at how human-landscape-outcome actions interrelate.

Zube concludes that our justification for worrying about landscape perception and making landscape beautiful is that landscape is important for human quality of life and is as significant as economic and social factors in influencing the human condition.

  • Expert judgements of aesthetics are usually based on art or ecology.
  • Non-expert judgements usually rely on psychological methods based on landscape stimulus and the objective properties of landscape.
  • Cognitive approaches look at the landscape as meaning, including psychobiological work based on Berlyne's (1960, 1971) arousal theory and Wohwill's (1976) work on stimulus configurations. Greenbie (1975) suggests that neural patterns of emotion have a characteristic shape within the brain which can be recognised in similar shapes in the landscape and produce similar emotional responses. The Kaplans' (R. Kaplan, 1979; S. Kaplan, 1975,1979) evolutionary approach suggests landscape preferences are related to the adaptive need to make sense of the environment and also be stimulated by it. Appleton's (1975a) prospect/refuge theory follows a similar line.
    The experiential approach looks at human-landscape interaction and suggests that aesthetic quality can lie in both the objective qualities of landscape and subjective meaning of landscape. It is difficult to separate the experience of landscape from the context in which it is viewed, and from other emotional experience. It is therefore difficult to develop techniques for this research other than unstructured phenomenological exploration. Much of the experiential study of landscape grew out of the geographers' study of landscape. Lewis, Lowenthal and Tuan (1973), Relph (1976) and Tuan (1977) explore the experience of interacting with landscape and its importance to people. Experiential work is usually carried out by examining literature and art, or even ordinary diaries (to avoid charges of elitism).

From 1965-80 the psychophysical paradigm showed the greatest increase in use, while the expert approach continued to be popular. This reflects the emphasis on problem solving research particularly focused on forests and forest recreation. Landscape journals, for example have primarily focused on expert and psychological paradigms. There has been less work on experiential and psychological approaches: fields of research in which both applied and theoretical issues are addressed.

Ephemeral conditions and change (e.g. weather-induced) are largely ignored.

Zube (p. 20) quotes Appleton (1975b) who suggests that, because there is no underlying theoretical structure for landscape perception, there is a lack of a rational basis for "diagnosis, prescription and prognosis". Zube finds that it is not clear, from his survey of research, that researchers are even measuring the same aesthetic.

PublishedLandscape Planning, 9:1-33
AuthorsZube, E.H., Sell, J.l. and Taylor, J.G.
PublisherElsevier Scientific Publishing Co.
Pricesubscription c. 146 p.a. (4)
Keywordslandscape perception, (research) (theory), landscape beauty, aesthetics.
CommentsComprehensive and detailed review providing the most successful attempt to date to draw together and categorise a diverse range of rearch. Current research is still making use of the theories developed during this review period and the article provides a useful context for this work. Zube attempts to provides an objective overview of the debate on visual perception and the nature of aesthetic appreciation.

Appleton, J. (1975a). The experience of Landscape. New York, NY: John Wiley.

Appleton, J. (1975). Landscape evaluation: the theoretical vacuum. Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers, 66: 120-123.

Berlyne, D.E., (1960). Conflict, Arousal and Curiosity. New York, NY,: McGraw-Hill.

Berlyne, D.E., (1971). Aesthetics and Psychobiology. New York, NY, : Appleton-Centuary-Crofts,

Greenbie, B.B., (1975). "Problems of scale and context in assessing a generalized landscape for particular persons." In E.H. Zube, R.O. Brush and J.G. Fabos (eds), Landscape Assessment: Values, Perceptions and Resources. Stroudsburg, PA.: Dowden, Hutchison and Ross.

Kaplan, R., (1979) "The Green Experience." In S. Kaplan and R. Kaplan (eds) Humanscape. North Scituate MA.: Duxbury.

Kaplan, S. (1975). "An informal model for the prediction of preference." In E.H. Zube, R.O. Brush and J.G. Fabos (eds), Landscape Assessment: Values, Perceptions and Resources. Stroudsburg, PA.: Dowden, Hutchison and Ross.

Kaplan, S. (1979). "Perceptions and landscape: conceptions and misconceptions." In G.H. Elsner and R.C. Smardon (eds), Our National Landscape. U.S.D.A. Forest Services General Technical Report. PSW-35.

Lewis, P.F., and Lowenthal, D. and Yi-Fu Tuan, (1973). Visual Blight in America. Washington DC: Association of American Geographers., Research Paper 23.

Relf, E.C. (1976). Places and Placelessness. London: Pion.

Tuan, Y.F., (1977). Space and Place: The Perspectives of Experience. Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota Press.

Wohlwill, J.F. (1976) "Environmental Aesthetics: the environment as a source of affect", in I Altman and J.F. Wohlwill, eds., Human Behaviour and the Environment: advances in theory and research, Vol. 1 New York: Plenum Press.