Meditations on ice: Antarctica’s impact on the human psyche (2019)
Antarctica elicits a strong spiritual response in tourists and visitors and these responses often include feelings of awe and humility. This paper examines theories that may explain this response. A comparison is made between four Darwinian based theories of landscape psychology; Psycho-evolutionary theory, Attention Restoration theory, Prospect Refuge theory and the Savanna hypothesis. The predictive ability of each theory is applied to the expected experience of people viewing Antarctic landscapes and compared to the general results of surveys of actual experiences of Antarctic tourists/visitors. Three of the theories predict a preference for savanna-like environments, or at least an environment that contains trees and bushes. Antarctica has none of these and yet it is viewed positively by most visitors. In contrast to these theories, based as they are on an idea that humans are adapted to an ancestral environment, one researcher found the anomaly that Tundra was highly preferred in his study. Antarctica has many similarities to Tundra. The mechanism for this preference is not understood considering that Tundra would not logically be considered a prime habitat for humans. Psycho-evolutionary theory, Attention Restoration theory and Prospect Refuge theory fail to predict the experiences of Antarctic visitors whereas Attention Restoration theory has potential for understanding the Antarctic experience and can deal with the Tundra anomaly as well. The implications of this are discussed in relation to tourism and the Antarctic research stations. Some recommendations for further research are outlined.
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