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UBC Theses and Dissertations

The benefits of viewing sacred versus preferred landscapes Burger, Donald Allen


Restoration landscape theories propound the observation that landscape mitigates human emotion, mental functioning, and behaviour. Those environments that positively affect these spheres are called "restorative". In recent years, many attempts have been made to quantify restorative landscapes, so that landscape architects and others can replicate them in the manipulated environment. An understanding of how certain combinations of landscape attributes affect humans is important in knowing the ramifications of certain designs. A major finding in recent years is that preferred landscapes—or those high in scenic beauty—are generally more restorative than less-attractive environments. One realm of the environment not dealt with, however, is the sacred landscape. One reason for this is the relative difficulty in narrowing down the term “sacred” to something measurable. The purpose of this thesis is to investigate the nature of sacred landscapes, and then to test sacred landscapes against preferred landscapes to measure their restorative potential. This testing involved subjecting participants to a psychological stressor, and then exposing them to slides rated highly in either sacredness or preference. A control group was also tested, but viewed a blank screen rather than images. Implications of this research impact both researchers and practitioners in the fields of landscape architecture, environmental psychology, public land management, and visual resource management. This study found that sacred landscapes are very restorative, although not quite as restorative as environments that rate highly in scenic beauty. This confirms previous research efforts, and opens the study of restorative environments to other landscape typologies as well.

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