Psychology of the visual landscape


  • Maarten Jacobs Wageningen University




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.

How to Cite

Jacobs, M. (2011). Psychology of the visual landscape. Research in Urbanism Series, 2, 41–54.



Author Biography

Maarten Jacobs, Wageningen University

Assistant professor of Socio-spatial Analysis at Wageningen University (the Netherlands). In his PhD-research he constructed a comprehensive theory of landscape experiences that combines various disciplinary contributions into a general theoretical framework. His current research interests include human dimensions of wildlife, perception and evaluation of landscape, place, nature and water, and methods for the social sciences. He is a regular visiting scholar at the Human Dimensions of Natural Resources department of Colorado State University.


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