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Urban Studies Research
Volume 2012 (2012), Article ID 767049, 9 pages
Research Article

The Influences of Actual and Perceived Familiarity on Environmental Preferences for the Design of a Proposed Urban Square

Social, Economic and Geographical Sciences Group, The James Hutton Institute, Aberdeen AB15 8QH, UK

Received 8 April 2012; Revised 6 September 2012; Accepted 20 September 2012

Academic Editor: Adrian G. Aguilar

Copyright © 2012 Tony Craig et al. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


People gain actual familiarity through direct experience of environments, but environments we have never visited can still seem familiar. To date, few academic studies have investigated this phenomenon of perceived familiarity. This paper discusses the concept of perceived familiarity and environmental preference from the perspective of people who may be asked to make judgements of future urban designs as part of the planning process. A sample of local and nonlocal people were asked to rate images of two versions (existing environment and proposed redesign) of an urban square on scales of preference and perceived familiarity. Results showed that the mean ratings for the proposed design were similar for both local and non-local samples. However, we found a clearly discernible difference in the way psychological antecedents are associated with environmental preference. For nonlocals, preference for the existing design is significantly associated with preference for the proposed design, but for local people this is not the case. In addition, for non-locals perceived familiarity of the proposed design is associated with perceived familiarity of the existing environment, but for the local sample this is not the case. Implications for public participation processes in urban design, as well as limitations and future lines of research, are discussed.