Why do people enjoy views?

03 November 2015


Lady looking at a view



Why do many people enjoy looking at views? Do we learn this socially or is it innate? Either way - why?


Rosalind Davies spoke to Michael Forster from the University of Vienna to find out...

Michael - In general, the enjoyment of a view comes from a reaction of the brain's reward centre. This kind of reaction can be triggered by a variety of factors including the interesting complexity that operates at early visual levels and also deeper processing stages so just memory.

Rosalind - I find looking at a view really soothing. Why is this the case?

Michael - The natural view demands very little of our attention and gives no reason for us to think about our everyday demands or worries. In other words, we are able to just let go and enjoy the scenery.

Rosalind - It helps us let go from the world around us. But listeners Rachel Jones and her husband reckon it's because it speaks to our inner explorer.

Michael - Another explanation especially for the enjoyment of views from mountain tops, vantage points is grounded in human evolution. Humans have been curious about the environment because exploring our surroundings in evolution helped us detect threats to our life and helped us to find food. These are two of the most important factors for our survival. If we can do this surveing from a high or sweeping vantage, we can both sway a large area of the food and at the same time, spot threats from a far distance.

Rosalind - Is it the same for landscapes that are manmade?

Michael - For cityscapes on the other hand, we may have slightly different reasons for our fascination. Here, the most striking examples are of structures where humans created something of extraordinary scale of magnitude such as the New York skyline with the skyscrapers or the Eiffel Tower. The enjoyment most probably comes from mix of social engagement, pride or awe that we as humans are able to create such enormous structures or again, interest in complexity.


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