The possibility of a connection among high mystery, perceived danger, and depressed preference for certain categories of environments was investigated. Past research had suggested that urban alleys and narrow canyons would exhibit such a pattern. Comparison categories, chosen to be high in mystery and low in perceived danger, were urban and non-urban nature (that is, field-and-forest settings within urban or non-urban environments), respectively. Preference ratings were obtained for settings from each of the four categories. The settings were also rated by independent raters for six predictor variables: mystery, physical danger, social danger, shadow, nature, and vertical depth. The major findings were that danger was a negative predictor of preference and mystery was a positive predictor. There was no evidence that high mystery was involved in depressed preference ratings for any of the environmental categories investigated. The distinction between physical and social danger proved useful, with only social danger related (negatively) to preference.


Original Citation: Herzog, Thomas R., and Gregory A. Smith. "Danger, Mystery, and Environmental Preference." Environment and Behavior 20, no. 3 (1988): 320-344.

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