Gender

Lyons’ study (1983) did not find gender to be significant. However, gender has been found to be very significant in studies of perception of safety in urban landscapes, with women being far more fearful than men (Valentine 1989; Madge 1997; Jorgensen et al. 2002). Given the connection between landscape preference and perception of safety referred to earlier in the discussion of innate theories of landscape preference, it seems likely that gender does play a significant role in landscape perception but this may well be far more complex than a simple correlation between gender and preference for particular views or types of landscape (Rohde and Kendle 1994). However, given that women have been found to be more fearful in urban public landscapes, it seems likely that they would be more resistant than men to the introduction of ecological plantings in the form of tall woody vegetation.

Cultural background and ethnicity

Cultural background and ethnicity have been found to play a similarly complex role in landscape perception. Cross-cultural comparisons have consistently shown that differences in landscape preference, at least between the inhabitants of different Western and ‘Westernised’ cultures, are surprisingly small (Bourassa 1991; Van den Berg 1999; Herzog et al. 2000). Research on the question of whether people prefer their own familiar landscapes as opposed to exotic, unfamiliar landscapes seems fairly evenly divided (Rishbeth 2001). However, research does suggest that some ethnic minorities in the USA and in Britain prefer public urban landscapes characterised by openness and visibility (Rohde and Kendle 1994; Rishbeth research in progress). There is also evidence to suggest that members of ethnic minorities use public open spaces less than their white British counterparts, and that people with different cultural and ethnic backgrounds use open spaces in different ways, and value them for different reasons (Rishbeth 2001). Personal safety has been found to be a major factor restraining the use of public open spaces for members of some ethnic minorities (Madge 1997). Research on the impact of ethnicity in landscape perception is still fairly limited and it may in fact be the case (just as in the previous example of social class) that some aspects of landscape perception that appear to be correlated with ethnicity actually relate more to other factors, such as the impact on an individual of recent immigration or residence (Rohde and Kendle 1994; Rishbeth 2001).

Thus, it appears that personal factors can have a powerful effect on landscape preference, and, by inference, preference for different types of vegetation and ecological plantings. However, not enough is known about these differences and more research needs to be done to determine the nature of these variations.