Validity of photo-based scenic beauty judgments

R. B. Hull IV, WP Stewart

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This study examines whether scenic beauty judgments based upon photographs of landscapes are similar to scenic beauty judgments based upon on-site experiences of landscapes. Two concerns are emphasized: (1) a concern about the threat to the ecological validity of photo-based assessments caused by differences between on-site and photo-based contexts and (2) a concern that the individual rater, rather than the group average, is the more appropriate unit of analysis for tests of validity of photo-based assessments. On-site scenic beauty assessments were collected from day hikers. These data were compared to photo-based scenic beauty assessments collected from the same persons three months and nine months after their on-site experience. Approximately 38% of participants had insignificant correlations between their on-site and photo-based scenic beauty ratings. These and other results suggest that the validity of photo-based scenic beauty assessments is in doubt, at least for the situation studied here. Moreover, the results suggest that the difference between persons' on-site and photo-based ratings can be explained, in part, by contextual factors such as the mood, meaning, and novelty that differentiate photo-based from on-site landscape experiences. Group averaged on-site and photo-based assessments, however, were very similar, suggesting caution may be in order for studies interpreting summary measures.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)101-114
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Environmental Psychology
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jun 1992
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Applied Psychology


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