Studies on restorative environments have shown that the perceived restorativeness of natural settings was not only higher when compared with urban settings but were also preferred to urban settings. The ART stated that the best environmental fit for an individual is one in which there exists fewer attentional demands and more opportunities for restoration (Kaplan and Kaplan, 1989). The ART postulates that restorative environments possess the components of “being away,” “fascination,” “extent” or “coherence,” and “compatibility.” If that is indeed the case, then it would be expected that one would demonstrate a preference for environments which meet those requirements. Furthermore, researchers found a relationship between “preference” and perceived restorativeness (Herzog et al., 2003; Laumann et al., 2001; Nordh et al., 2009; Purcell et al., 2001; Tenngart Ivarsson and Hagerhall, 2008). This theory also stated benefits of restorative experience, including attentional recovery and reflection (PRP). However, only a few studies have attempted to investigate the relationship between “preference” and “PRP” in terms of their relationship with the restorative components.
According to the ART (Kaplan and Kaplan, 1989), environments that contain the characteristics of “being away,” “fascination,” “extent,” and “compatibility” offer the possibility for recovery from directed attention fatigue and thus serve as restorative settings. The first component is “being away,” which refers to one's ability to escape from unwanted distractions in the surroundings, distancing oneself from usual routines, and allowing for the suspension of the pursuit of particular purposes that impose demands on directed attention. “Fascination” is the second component that indicates that effortless attention is drawn by objects in the environment when one is engaged in the process of making sense of the environment. The third component is “extent,” which means the extent to which environments are sufficiently rich and coherent, such that they engage the mind and promote exploration. Finally, the last component of the restorative environments is “compatibility.” It indicates what the environment can offer to visitors to fulfill their desires, inclinations, or purposes.
The ART also stated that the benefits of restorative settings include: clearing the mind, recovery from fatigued directed attention, the opportunity to think about personal and unresolved problems, and the opportunity to reflect on life's larger questions such as directions and goals. Later, Herzog et al. (1997) grouped these benefits into two categories: recovery of directed attention and the opportunity for reflection, and referred to them as PRP (Herzog et al., 1997, 2002, 2003). Likewise, in other studies these were indicated as the likelihood of restoration (Hartig and Staats, 2006; Nordh et al., 2009; Staats et al., 2003) or overall perceived restorativeness (Felsten, 2009).
The majority of research on restorative environments focused on the perceived restorativeness of urban and natural environments as well as natural settings in urban context. They showed the role of urban natural settings in the perceived restorativeness of urban settings (Hartig and Staats, 2006; Herzog et al., 2003; Kaplan and Kaplan, 1989; Laumann et al., 2001; Pasini et al., 2009; Purcell et al., 2001). A correlation between “preference” and perceived restorativeness was also found (Herzog et al., 2003; Laumann et al., 2001; Nordh et al., 2009; Pals et al., 2009; Purcell et al., 2001; Tenngart Ivarsson and Hagerhall, 2008).
Purcell et al. (2001) postulated that the restorative quality of landscapes contributed to different preferences for various scene types. They collected data on the responses of “preference” and perceived restorativeness of five scene types. Their results showed that there was a correlation between perceived restorativeness and “preference” (r = 0.81, P < 0.01).
Kaplan and Kaplan (1989) proposed that the preferred environment might also be the restorative environment. Therefore, within the development of perceived restorativeness scale (PRS), Laumann et al. (2001) suggested that the assessment of the restorative components can be a predictor of environmental preferences. Thus, in two studies, they investigated the relationship between the restorative component and “preference” evaluations of urban and natural environments while participants imagined themselves in or viewed videos of the environments. They found that restorative components could predict “preference” for both environments (Laumann et al., 2001).
In two studies, Pals et al. (2009) found a correlation between some restorative components and “preference” in the zoo environment. They measured visitors' perceived restorativeness while viewing of a butterfly garden and a baboon cage in a Netherlands zoological park. The study examined how restorative components were related to visitor experiences (i.e., preference ratings and experienced pleasure). The result showed that “fascination” was a significant predictor of experienced “preference” in both studies.
Furthermore, a few studies underscored the relationship between “preference” and the PRP of settings. Herzog et al. (2003) stated that soft fascination (effortless attention) should generate a positive correlation between “preference” and PRP according to the importance of soft fascination in the restorative process. They collected responses of “preference” and PRP from 70 color slides of natural and built environments. It was seen that “preference” and PRP were highly and significantly correlated (r = 0.95, P < 0.001) and the effective predictors of PRP were “being away” and “compatibility.” Furthermore, it was found that the pattern of prediction for PRP and “preference” was somewhat different in terms of relationship with the restorative components. However, their studies did not investigate the different urban settings (e.g., urban and urban natural).
In general, studies on restorative environments have indicated a high relationship between “preference” and perceived restorativeness (restorative components or overall PRS), and also between PRP and some of the restorative components; however, few studies investigated the relationship between “preference” and PRP. Therefore, this research investigated the relationship between PRP and “preference” for an environment with respect to their relationship with individual restorative components in two categories: UBLs and UNLs.
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