Unearthing the picturesque: The validity of the preference matrix as a measure of landscape aesthetics

Alexander P. N. van der Jagt, Tony Craig, Jillian Anable, Mark J. Brewer, David G. Pearson*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

59 Citations (Scopus)


Previous research has provided inconclusive support for the preference matrix; a psychological framework of landscape aesthetics rooted in a long tradition of studying scenic quality. Given recent insights into the important implications that aesthetics have for health and well-being, the aim of the present study was to re-assess the validity of the preference matrix following the implementation of a series of methodological improvements. These entailed: a set of item definitions piloted for high comprehension; adequate statistical control for confounding influences by scene content and user experience; a substantially sized, highly varied image database; and the employment of statistical instruments to formally test for nonlinear relationships. An ordinal mixed effects model provides convergent evidence for our hypothesis that each of predictors in the preference matrix is independently predictive of scene aesthetics. In addition, we find support for an interaction between the constructs of Coherence and Complexity and show that levels of both natural and built character, as well as familiarity, are uniquely predictive of scene attractiveness. The present findings underline the role of the preference matrix as a potential tool in informing evidence-based design.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-13
Number of pages13
JournalLandscape and Urban Planning
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2014


  • Built environment
  • Familiarity
  • Landscape aesthetics
  • Natural environment
  • Preference matrix

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology
  • Nature and Landscape Conservation
  • Management, Monitoring, Policy and Law


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