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Kaplan et al. (1998, pp. 10-17) suggested people’s preference of natural environment is based on a preference matrix (table).

“Understanding provides a sense of security (R. Kaplan et al., 1998, p. 10).” People feel distressed if they cannot comprehend a situation and people also have a desire to explore the environment to obtain more information to guarantee their survival and prospertity (R. Kaplan et al., 1998).

Environment- percieved negative- harder to understand and explore- harder to survive and reproduce-stress- lower preference.

  Understanding Exploration
2-D Coherence Complexity
3-D Legibility Mystery

Kaplan et al. (1998) suggested that people’s perception could involve a rapid and unconscious process of translating two-dimensional view, say a photograph of a natural setting, into three dimensional view.

Four informational factors serve for people to let them understand or explore the natural environment.

For 2-D factors, a setting with high coherence means the setting is orderly and people can discern distinctive areas or regions defined by themes and textures. Landscape setting  with symmetric and repeating visual elements and unifying textures can contribute to a good level of coherence. “ a scene with “a relatvely small number of chunks” of visual elements can be be more preferable than one with unorganized and scattered elements.

Complexity is the level of richness of a setting. A natural environment with high richness or diversity of natural landscapes would encourage people to explore it. Kaplan et al. suggested it is possible that a highly coherent setting can also be a high complex one.

For 3-D factors, a setting with high legibility is a space with high level of distinctiveness. The setting includes some easily conceiveable and memorable components to help people have strong sence of orientation and memorable distinctiveness about the setting.

Mystery is something promising in a physical setting which could encourage people to move deeper to gain more information. The new information is not presented at the scence but people can gain hints from it. There is logic connectedness between the first scene and further scences, therefore, the information people can obtain from those further scences should not be entirely surprising (S. Kaplan, 1987). A scene with bended trail or relatively transparent foreground folige is often regarded as a setting with high mystery. As a contrast, particial obscured view is a typical mysterious landscape favored by people but a totally blocked view could have much lower level of mystery.

A theretical ground for preference is that construction and use of cognitive maps is crucial for humans’ survival during the couse of evolution. That is, humans could be helpless if they enter an environment where contains little information they are familiar with or can understand. Furthermore, humans also need explore deeper to obtain more information and resource to prosper themsleves. Therefore, selection of habitat for humans is a choice which need meet requirements of understanding and exploration.  In fact, other animals also have a preference of habitats in which they can propsors. Thanks to millions of years’ human evolution, the process of preference originated from habitat selection is often intuitvely and hard to explain even by partcipants. People often make quick, unconscious preference wheareas they are unware what determinants of their decisions are (S. Kaplan, 1987). This rapid, unconcious human information processing is supplementary to  another theory that visual preference is based on congnition, a slow process that is consicious, language-based, and depedent upon reasoning (S. Kaplan, 1995).