Aesthetic and Affective Response to Natural Environment

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DOI: 10.1007/978-1-4613-3539-9_4
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Abstract
Argues that evolutionary heritage underlies humans' consistent preference for stimuli from the natural environment and that research on affective and aesthetic responses is needed to understand human interaction with the environment. It is noted that the rapidly expanding empirical record concerning aesthetic and affective responses to natural environments is in need of a well-developed theoretical foundation. An integrated conceptual framework to address this theoretical lack, drawing on recent theory and research on emotion, is proposed. This framework explains how affects arise in the natural environment; postulates their functions; and links them to cognition, activity in physiological systems, and behavior. The present author, in developing the framework, questions the view that feelings result from cognitive processes, asserting that feelings (not thoughts) are the initial response in environmental encounters. The observer's initial feeling reaction shapes subsequent cognitive events. The relative sequence of feeling and thinking in environmental encounters represents a fundamental issue in understanding human interaction with the environment. (98 ref) (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2012 APA, all rights reserved)
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    ... The theory proposes that contact with nature (or natural elements) results in favourable changes in (physiological) arousal and affective states. 21 ART, on the other hand, is centred on the exhaustion of attentional resources. It proposes that we often operate on voluntary (or 'directed') effortful attention which is susceptible to depletion and must be periodically allowed to rest by activating involuntary attention, which often occurs in natural environments. ...
    ... First, according to SRT, exposure to pleasant natural environments can either increase, decrease or not influence arousal, depending on the initial arousal level. 21 Second, autonomic nervous system activation corresponds to a variety of functions, including homeostasis, attention, effort and digestion. 53 Third, both positive (e.g. ...
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