Fractal dimension links responses to a visual scene to its biodiversity.
AffiliationUniversity of Derby
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AbstractHumans appear to have an innate, beneficial response and preference for natural over urban scenes, yet “natural” is an ambiguous concept that varies from culture to culture. In looking for a commonality to natural scenes that tends to be lacking in built scenes, many researchers have turned to fractal geometry, finding that fractal dimension can predict preference. Here, I calculated the fractal dimension of the dominant land-sky edge at a variety of sites having varying depths of water table and levels of biodiversity (specifically, “species richness”). I then investigated changes in human physiological arousal (magnitude of skin conductance responses) in response to images of those scenes. Sites with high biodiversity were shown to have a significantly higher associated fractal dimension than low-biodiversity sites, whereas shallow versus deep water-table sites showed no significant difference. When shown the images, the magnitude of skin conductance responses for human viewers showed a negative correlation with fractal dimension. Replicating earlier findings, ranked preference for a scene showed a positive correlation with fractal dimension. Taken together, these findings suggest an evolved response to stimuli associated with a healthy ecosystem: Patterns of healthy vegetative growth determine visual fractal dimension, which reduces physiological arousal upon observation, this being experienced as a positive emotional state and expressed as a preference for that environment.
CitationStevens, P. (2018) 'Fractal Dimension Links Responses to a Visual Scene to Its Biodiversity', Ecopsychology, DOI: 10.1089/eco.2017.0049
PublisherMary Ann Liebert, Inc., publishers