Date on Master's Thesis/Doctoral Dissertation


Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation

Degree Name

Ph. D.


Urban and Public Affairs

Committee Chair

Cohn, Louis F. (Louis Franklin), 1948-

Author's Keywords

Rated preference; Complexity; Familiarity; Modern; Development patterns; Visual medium; Neotraditional


City planning--Psychological aspects; City planning--Citizen participation


This dissertation examines the impact of complexity and familiarity on visual preference for two content domains defined as Neo-Traditional and Modern. This research has five main themes: (1) To determine if there is a method for community design professions to derive consensus about visual preference. (2) To determine if visual preference favors conventional suburban development patterns or traditional neighborhood development patterns. (3) To determine if scene complexity or coherency affects visual preference. (4) To determine if familiarity of scene content affects visual preference. (5) To determine if visual preference for a simulated scene correlates with its photographic counterpart. To respond to these objectives the research steps included: (1) Assembling a photographic library of street scenes throughout the Louisville, Kentucky and Cincinnati, Ohio metropolitan areas. (2) Categorizing the photographic library into three property value ranges described as low, medium and high. (3) Determining through ratings by a panel of experts which of the photographs best represented Neo-Traditional and Modern development patterns. (4) Preparing digital visualizations of two of the photographs selected by the panel of experts. (5) Submitting the photographs and images to a population sample of 304 people enlisted through the Internet, and having those respondents rate the photographs and images on the basis of visual preference, scene familiarity and scene complexity. The findings of this research are as follows: (1) People who participated in the survey favored modern development patterns over neo-traditional development patterns for all three price ranges. (2) Familiarity is a reliable construct of visual preference. (3) Complexity is not a reliable construct of visual preference. (4) Digital visualization can serve as a reasonable proxy to actual photographs.