Perception and preference of day-night differences in landscape: An eye-tracking study

Authors and Affiliations: 

Xinyi Zhou, Lien Dupont, Marc Antrop, Veerle Van Eetvelde
Department of Geography, Ghent University, Belgium

Corresponding author: 
Xinyi Zhou

Landscape together with the changeable process of light and shadow is often described as the spatio-temporal art. Same landscape reveals its different faces during four seasons, or even throughout the day, strongly enriching viewer’s experience in the landscape. In other words, the interpretation of landscape changes linked with ephemera should take observer’s sensory feeling into account.
Landscape elements’ shape and color can be distinguished in detail through reflection of sunlight during the day. When it comes to darkness, it could be scary in contrast to the vibrant beauty of daytime if there lacks of proper lighting installation, which would result in the negative sensation associated with nature. Appearance and recognition of the landscape components vary dramatically under the natural sunlight source and the decorative illumination. It could also be pleasant if the garden is brightened up by a variety of artificially created lighting from overhead to the ground-lamps along the pathway. Study has attested human’s viewing desirability of city skylines after dark.
Thus, the objective of this study is to explore people’s perception and preference of landscape features in different ephemeral situations, in our case, it is the day-night disparity. What is the influence of lighting in the perception and preference of landscape? Whether that particular fondness exists in the night experience of dark but illuminated landscape as well?
We will use eye-tracking technology to test our hypothesis. 20 digital color photographs of 10 typical Belgian landscapes before and after dark are selected as stimuli. Experiment consists of two parts – Singlephoto and Dualphoto processes. During the first phrase, randomized order of stimuli shows up individually. Two groups of Belgian and non-Belgian respondents freely view the photographs. Blank slide with a fixation cross placed in the center is inserted prior to each stimulus for standardizing the starting point. For the second stage, each pair of day and night shots of identical scene will be displayed together on the computer screen. Subjects need to decide the preferable setting between day and night. This distinctly contrastive photo sets represent the animated images in the daytime on the one hand and landscape with application of illuminating system at night on the other hand. Day and night photos shift its position each time during the whole procedure to avoid location impact.
Data analysis will focus on the preference choice followed up by a questionnaire as well as statistical correlation between main eye-tracking metrics. Typically, gaze line of individuals is directed to the objects that attract their attention. Location of first fixation and time course assessment over the trail will give perspective of whether there is attentional bias between day and night, which are defined as two AOIs. Dwell time is another useful measurement for pairwise comparison of attention deployment on targets.


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