Theories of landscape perception

There are two basic explanations for the way in which we react to different landscapes: (i) we have an innate or biological response to landscape; and (ii) responses to landscape are acquired through cultural background and personal development, to a greater or lesser degree.

Historically, many of the proponents of the innate explanation have concentrated on landscape preference research in an attempt to discover what kind of landscape humans prefer. Although it is obviously useful to gauge public preference for different types of landscape, the nature of this type of research sometimes obscures the complexity of people’s attitudes. These issues are particularly relevant to people’s responses to ecological plantings because such plantings arouse particularly strong and sometimes conflicting responses. It can be argued that landscape preference research simply does not access the full spectrum of people’s reactions to landscape in general, and ecological plantings in particular. This may lead to conclusions that are incomplete and, in some cases, downright misleading.

Adherents of the view that responses to landscape are acquired believe that human aesthetic preference is not an abstract or static concept, but rather a process that is deeply embedded in changing cultural values and individual experience: thus, any examination of public attitudes towards urban ecological plantings must also examine these wider issues.