Understanding visual preferences for landscapes: an examination of the relationship between aesthetics and emotional bonding
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The relationship between humans and the quality of the environment have been examined primarily through two conceptual constructs: landscape aesthetics and place attachment or emotional place bonding. The former focuses on the physical environment and the latter focuses on the emotional or symbolic environment. This study focused on understanding the relationship between the two constructs, and provided a framework to integrate them toward a more comprehensive visual preference for landscapes. Nasar’s (1989) symbolic model was used as a guiding concept in the study. A web-based survey was used to collect people’s responses to landscapes portrayed in photographs. Four primary measures were used in the survey: landscape aesthetic, typicality (to a national park), emotional place bonding, and landscape visual preference. To further examine the effect of place meaning on responses to landscapes, respondents were told during the survey that landscape pictures were taken from different places, which were assigned randomly as place labels (national park, commercial recreation area, local park, and scenic area). Results indicated that emotional place bonding was significantly and positively influenced by perceived landscape aesthetics through four components: complexity, mystery, coherence, and legibility. Complexity and mystery had more influence on emotional place bonding than the other two components. Results also provided empirical support for Nasar’s (1989) symbolic model. The effect of landscape aesthetics on landscape visual preference was partially mediated by typicality and emotional place bonding. The typicality of a scene to a national park was found to positively influence people’s emotional bonding to the place. The four randomly assigned place labels did not elicit significantly different preferences or emotional responses to the places. This study documented how landscape aesthetics and emotional bonding can be integrated into visual preferences for landscapes. Results also provided evidence for the potential to use emotional bonding information to manage physical landscapes. The study contributes to our understanding and can assist with environment planning and management. Both physical appearance and symbolic/emotional meaning are very important to human perceptions of landscapes, and other attempts should be made to understand how the two constructs contribute to visual preference in future research.
Cheng, Chia-Kuen (2007). Understanding visual preferences for landscapes: an examination of the relationship between aesthetics and emotional bonding. Doctoral dissertation, Texas A&M University. Available electronically from