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Clash of values at crux of debate over landscape aesthetics

cerebral than perceptual, resulting in a deeper, richer, more cognitive experience. The problem with that theory, said Parsons, who also is a psychologist, is that it doesn't reflect current theory in cognitive science, which regards emotion as an integral part of cognition.

Ecological aestheticians also maintain that human behavior is extremely malleable, he said, and therefore, people can easily learn to reshape their landscape preferences. Parsons isn't so sure, and cites cross-cultural and historical research that suggests a longstanding -- possibly evolutionary -- preference for savanna-style landscapes.

"Rather than advocating aesthetic 're-education' to advance ecosystem sustainability goals, ecologists and other natural scientists would better serve environmental policy makers by building a scientifically defensible consensus regarding what constitutes ecosystem health," Parsons and Daniel conclude. "Similarly, psychologists and other social scientists would better serve environmental policy makers by building a scientifically defensible understanding of how and why people adopt environmental concerns and engage in ecologically responsible behaviors. We may well find that scenic landscape aesthetics is an ally in this regard, not an obstacle."


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Contact: Melissa Mitchell
melissa@uiuc.edu
217-333-5491
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
2-Sep-2002


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