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Psychology of the visual landscape

Maarten Jacobs


While environmental psychology is a leading discipline in the study of human responses to the visual landscape, various other disciplines contribute to our understanding of the psychological reception of landscape as well, such as human geography, leisure sciences and sociology. Despite the disciplinary differences, all approaches share two core assumptions: (1) the way people experience landscape is influenced but not determined by physical landscape attributes, a complex mental process of information reception and processing mediates between the physical landscape and the mental landscape, and (2) various factors can exercise influence on this mental process, to be divided into biological, cultural and individual factors.

This article presents an overview of the various disciplinary approaches to psychological responses to landscape, with a focus on the predominant psychological phenomena under study, the theoretical perspectives, and the factors that are stressed to explain psychological dispositions related to landscape. Within this overview, also the Dutch contributions to the study of landscape perception and experience will be emphasized. The article concludes with a discussion that stresses how knowledge produced within these approaches may be useful within various stages of planning and design processes in general, and which approaches are most promising to inform GIS that support landscape policy and planning in particular.


environmental psychology; visual landscape; landscape planning; landscape design; landscape experience; visual perception; landscape management; landscape physiognomy; landscape perception; visual landscape research; GIS; landscape attributes

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Copyright (c) 2013 Maarten Jacobs

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