Document Type



Doctor of Philosophy



Date of Defense


Graduate Advisor

Brian Vandenberg, PhD


Ann Steffen, Ph.D.

Matthew Taylor, Ph.D.

Allon Uhlman, Ph.D.


This study investigated the savannah hypothesis, an evolutionary explanation for human environmental preference. It aimed to address some of the methodological shortcomings of prior research while simultaneously investigating the role of non-evolutionary influences, such as existential anxiety and individual differences. Ninety-eight undergraduate participants were shown photos of Natural, Mixed, and Built settings and rated the visual attractiveness of each photo. Results showed that Built scenes were preferred over Natural and Mixed scenes, in contradiction to the savannah hypothesis. Existential anxiety, however, did not appear to influence photo ratings. Individual differences, such as ethnicity and the quality participants’ previous outdoor experiences were significantly related to photo ratings. Caucasian participants and participants with a history of pleasurable outdoor experiences rated natural photos as more attractive than minority participants and participants who reported having more unpleasant outdoor experiences. The results undermine the savannah hypothesis’ adaptationist claims regarding the human preference for natural scenes.

Included in

Psychology Commons