Perception & Psychophysics

, Volume 12, Issue 4, pp 354-356

First online:

Rated preference and complexity for natural and urban visual material

  • Stephen KaplanAffiliated withPsychological Laboratories, University of Michigan
  • , Rachel KaplanAffiliated withPsychological Laboratories, University of Michigan
  • , John S. WendtAffiliated withPsychological Laboratories, University of Michigan


In order (1) to study the relationship between complexity and preference for slides of the physical environment and (2) to test the hypothesis that the content of slides (in particular, whether nature or urban) will influence preference, independent of the rated complexity, 88 Ss were asked to rate 56 slides, both for preference and for complexity. Based on dimensional analyses, a nature and an urban dimension were identified. Three major results were obtained: (1) Nature scenes were greatly preferred to urban scenes (p < .001). (2) Complexity predicted preference within the nature domain (r = .69) and within the urban domain (r = .78). (3) Complexity did not account for the preference for nature over urban slides; the greatly preferred nature slides were, in fact, judged on the average less complex than the urban slides. The possibility is raised that the domain-specific character of the preference/complexity relationship found in this study may be general; that is, it may not be a special property of environmentally generated arrays.