Measuring Preferences for Natural Landscapes

by John A. Dearinger, (M.ASCE), Prof.; Dept. of Civ. Engrg., Univ. of Kentucky, Lexington, Ky.,

Serial Information: Journal of the Urban Planning and Development Division, 1979, Vol. 105, Issue 1, Pg. 63-80

Document Type: Journal Paper


In land-use planning decisions must often be made about the preservation or development of natural landscapes. The research described in this paper sought a way to measure these preferences. Subsets of 95 photographic color slides portraying varying degrees of naturalness were shown to 14 assorted groups of people (371 persons in all). Preferences were quantified using a semantic differential scale made up of 20 bi-polar adjective pairs. The results were factor analyzed for each group and three factors identified: Scenic Beauty, Natural Force, and Starkness. Factor scores were computed for each scene and group and for selected indiviuduals. Some conclusions were: (1)The procedure yields a usable measure of preference which varies with the subject's familiarity with the scene, his or her occupation, and life style; (2)scenes that include moving water are preferred over those with still water or no water; (3)naturally barren areas are seldom perceived as beautiful by most people; (4)people tend to agree on what is very beautiful or very ugly but disagree on the in-between.

Subject Headings: Landscaping | Water conservation | Land use | Photography | Lifeline systems

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