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Perceptions, object and observer of forest landscape and planning

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  1. Introduction.
  2. Object and observer.
    1. Object.
    2. Observer.
    3. Common de?nitions of environmental perception.
  3. Assessment and evaluation.
    1. Common methods.
    2. Temporal integration.
    3. Experts versus the public.
  4. Results and applications of research.
    1. Rules of thumb.
  5. The promise of visualization.
  6. Conclusion.

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 quanti?cation 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 simpli?cation/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. [...]


[...] This can be seen as the gold standard for the application of research ?ndings in the area of perceptions, and as a result we must always strive to understand how this body of research relates to the larger issue of the human condition. The appropriate management of our forested environments obviously has a large part to play in that concern. Forest aesthetics has a long tradition of importance in this context and research into the interactions of human perception and forested landscapes will hopefully lead us to a better understanding of the fundamental principles related to its management. [...]

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