Skip to main content

The prediction of preference for unfamiliar urban places


Preferences for unfamiliar urban environments were studied as a function of urban categories, viewing time, and four predictor variables: complexity, coherence, identifiability, and mystery. A nonmetric factor analysis of the preference ratings for the longest viewing-time condition yielded five dimensions: Contemporary Life, Alley/Factory, Urban Nature, Unusual Architecture, and Older Buildings. The five categories differed significantly in preference, with Urban Nature by far the most preferred and Alley/Factory distinctly disliked. The combination of low coherence and high complexity characterizes the least liked Alley/Factory category, while the role of mystery in the urban setting is highlighted by the most preferred Urban Nature category. The results point to various ways in which the urban environment could be more responsive to people's preferences.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.


  • Alexander, C., Ishikawa, S., & Silverstein, M.A pattern language. New York: Oxford University Press, 1977.

    Google Scholar 

  • Anderson, E. Visual resource assessment: Local perceptions of familiar natural environments. Doctoral dissertation. University of Michigan. 1978.

  • Appleyard, D. Notes on urban perception and knowledge. Paper presented at the Environmental Design Research Association (EDRA) Conference, Pittsburgh, 1970.

  • Bruner, J.S. On perceptual readiness.Psychological Review 1957,64 123–152.

    Google Scholar 

  • Craik, K.H. Environmental psychology. In P.H. Mussen and R. Rosenzweig (Eds.).Annual review of psychology. Palo Alto, California: Annual Reviews, Inc., 1973, pp. 403–422.

    Google Scholar 

  • Cullen, G.Townscape. New York: Reinhold, 1961.

    Google Scholar 

  • Downs, R.M., & Stea, D.Maps in minds: Reflections on cognitive mapping. New York: Harper & Row, 1977.

    Google Scholar 

  • Downs, R.M., & Stea, D.Image and environment. Chicago: Aldine, 1973.

    Google Scholar 

  • Herzog, T.R., Kaplan, S., & Kaplan, R. The prediction of preference for familiar urban places.Environment and Behavior 1976,8 627–645.

    Google Scholar 

  • Kaplan, R. Down by the riverside: Informational factors in waterscape preference. InRiver recreation management and research symposium. USDA Forest Service General Technical Report NC-28, 1977, pp. 285–289.

  • Kaplan, R. Some methods and strategies in the prediction of preference. In E.H. Zube, R.O. Brush, and J.G. Fabos (Eds.),Landscape assessment: Values, perceptions, and resources. Stroudsburg, Pa.: Dowden, Hutchinson & Ross, 1975, pp. 118–129.

    Google Scholar 

  • Kaplan, R. A strategy for dimensional analysis. In D.H. Carson (Ed.),Man-environment interactions. Environmental Design Research Association Proceedings, Part 9. 1974, pp. 66–68.

  • Kaplan, R. The dimension of the visual environment: Methodological considerations. In W.J. Mitchell (Ed.),Environmental design: Research and practice. Proceedings of the Environmental Design Research Association Conference Three, Los Angeles, 1972.

  • Kaplan, S. Concerning the power of content-identifying methodologies. In T.C. Daniel and E.H. Zube (Eds.).Assessment of amenity resource values. USDA Forest Service Rocky Mountain Station, 1979. (a)

  • Kaplan, S. Perception and landscape: Conceptions and misconceptions.Proceedings of our national landscape conference. USDA Forest Service General Technical Report TSW-35. 1979, pp. 241–248. (b)

  • Kaplan, S. An informal model for the prediction of preference. In E. H. Zube, R.O. Brush, and J.G. Fabos (Eds.).Landscape assessment: Values, perceptions, and resources. Stroudsburg, Pa.: Dowden, Hutchinson & Ross, 1975, pp. 92–101.

    Google Scholar 

  • Kaplan, S., & Kaplan, R. (Eds.).Humanscape: Environments for people. Belmont, Ca: Duxbury (Division of Wadsworth), 1978.

    Google Scholar 

  • Langer, E.J., & Imber, L.G. When practice makes perfect: Debilitating effects of overlearning.Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 1979,37 2014–2024.

    Google Scholar 

  • Lingoes, J.C. A general survey of the Guttman-Lingoes nonmetric program series. In R.N. Shepard, A.K. Romney, and S.B. Nerlove (Eds.),Multidimensional scaling, Volume 1. New York: Seminar Press, 1972, pp. 52–68.

    Google Scholar 

  • Lynch, K.The image of the city. Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 1960.

    Google Scholar 

  • Milgram, S. The experience of living in cities.Science 1970,167 1461–1468.

    Google Scholar 

  • Parr, A.E. City and psyche.Yale Review 1965,55 71–85.

    Google Scholar 

  • Smith, C.J. The geography of mental health. Association of American Geographers Resource Paper No. 76-4, 1976.

Download references

Author information

Authors and Affiliations


Additional information

This research was supported in part by a grant from the Grand Valley State Colleges Research Development Fund to Thomas Herzog and in part by the Urban Forestry Unit of the U.S. Forest Service's North Central Experimental Station in a cooperative research agreement with R. Kaplan and S. Kaplan.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Herzog, T.R., Kaplan, S. & Kaplan, R. The prediction of preference for unfamiliar urban places. Popul Environ 5, 43–59 (1982).

Download citation

  • Issue Date:

  • DOI: