For many centuries people have been concerned with perceptions of the natural world. Philosophers have written about it, psychologists have studied it, and, more recently, foresters have become concerned with it. However, when we speak of ‘perceptions of forest landscapes' in relationship to forest science, we are typically referring to a variety of assessments and their associated methodologies applied to the quantiﬁcation of some visual aspect of forested lands rather than the larger context of what it means to perceive the world around us. Because of this, perceptions of forest landscapes can be seen as a restricted subset of a larger body of generalized perception research that will not be dealt with in much detail in this article. First, the discussion will be limited to forested landscapes and will not deal with perceptions of urban or built environments, for which there is a great deal of research. Additionally, this article will focus on topics related primarily to visual perception. This is an obvious simpliﬁcation/reduction of the larger construct of perception but has certainly received far more attention over the years than all of the other senses combined. Lastly, of all of the measurable dimensions arising from these visual perceptions of forested landscapes, scenic beauty will receive more attention than a host of alternative dimensions (such as general preference, acceptability, visual impact) since it has historically been quite important to forest managers and the decisions that must be made regarding the balance of competing forest values.
[...] You begin to access the higher centers of cognitive brain activity and are able to retrieve linguistic representations of the object in question (the bear). It would not be until that point that you would be able to formulate the utterance ‘That's a scary-looking bear. I'm getting out of here.' While it might be said that there is a somewhat innate aesthetic response given the affective (emotional) components of the aesthetic experience mentioned above, it cannot be expressed, nor even consciously experienced, without some form of cognitive apparatus and as a result cannot wholly be considered innate. [...]
[...] Object and Observer We are often told that ‘beauty is in the eye of the beholder' but, in the absence of an external world to behold, this would have little meaning. Conversely, consider this famous quote by William James (the father of American psychology): Imagine an absolutely material world, containing only physical and chemical facts, without even an interested spectator: would there be any sense in saying of that world that one of its states is better than another. Taken together these ideas lead to the supposition that beauty is transactional, where forest aesthetics is a perceptual state brought about by the interactions of the visible biophysical features of a forested landscape and the perceptual processes of an individual observer. [...]
[...] Recent research by Daniel Kahneman and others has uncovered some interesting effects that may begin to explain how accessing memory representation could affect our perceptions and ultimately our expressed assessment/evaluation of a given forest scene. This research can be summarized by brieﬂy explaining the peak–end rule. This rule states that the affective value (preference rating) of a given moment is a simple average of the most extreme affect in a set (peak) and the affective state that is present near the end of an experience (end).While this research has focused mainly on our perceptions (and evaluations) of pain, it may likely extend to the visual assessment of forest aesthetic dimensions. [...]
[...] Therefore, foresters must be conscious of the intent to do something, thereby creating a new object for evaluation, which ultimately becomes the public's primary means to understand and interpret the underlying properties of that landscape that the forester hopes to maximize. In the case of forestry, these underlying properties are typically multidimensional and are often in conﬂict; attempts to resolve conﬂicts involving aesthetics need to be grounded in the results from perceptual research. Rules of Thumb Over the years, a great deal of research has been done (particularly in the Western world) to aid foresters in understanding the linkages between manageable landscape characteristics and predictions of perceived scenic beauty. [...]
[...] This postulation states that humans lived for nearly 2 million years on the savannahs of East Africa where certain features of the landscape offered greater chances for both individual and group survival. Therefore evolution should have predisposed us to prefer these landscape features that are beneﬁcial to our survival. Experimentally there is some evidence to support this including a tendency for children to prefer savannah- like environments over all other biomes, our collective tendency to create gardens with savannah-like characteristics and cross-cultural studies that have shown amazing similarities in our landscape preferences. [...]
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