The Effects of Natural Landscapes on Inspiration: An Exploratory Study


  • Brad Daniel 2nd Nature TREC (Training, Research, Education, Consulting) and Western Carolina University
  • Jim Shores Asbury University
  • W. Brad Faircloth University of North Carolina - Asheville and 2nd Nature TREC (Training, Research, Education, Consulting)



topophilia, landscape, inspiration, national park, field course


The purpose of this qualitative study was to explore the relationship between natural landscapes and inspiration through the lens of topophilia—the affinity people have for certain places or landscape features. Participants were students on a traveling college field course called American Ecosystems. The 2015 course (n=15, 26 days) visited 19 U.S. National Parks, Monuments, and Grasslands. The 2017 course (n=15, 18 days) visited 14 locations. On both courses, students studied the flora, fauna, ecology, climate, geology, landforms, and environmental issues associated with each location. Four factors emerged that encouraged inspiration: 1) vertical landscape features, 2) direct and varied experience of place, 3) overcoming personal challenges provided by the landscapes, 4) novel experiences. Students ranked landscapes as more inspirational if they spent more time there, had opportunity to see and learn about them from a greater number of vantage points, and had more direct and varied experiences within them.

Subscribe to JOREL


NOTE: The formatting is lost when pasting into this box. I will send a formatted list separately.

Appleton, J. (1975). The Experience of Landscape. Wiley.

Beery, T., Ingemar Jonsson, K., Elmberg, J. (2015). From environmental connectedness to sustainable futures: Topophilia and human affiliation with nature. Sustainability, 7(7), 8837-8854.

Bender, R., Tobias, P. V., & Bender, N. (2012). The savannah hypotheses: Origin, reception, and impact on paleoanthropology. History and Philosophy of the Life Sciences, 34(1-2), 147-184.

Boyle, E., Maguire, S., Martin, A., Milsom, C., Nash, R., Rawlinson, S., Turner, A., Wurthmann, S. & Conchie, S. (2007). Fieldwork is good: The student perception and the affective domain, Journal of Geography in Higher Education, 31(2), 299-317.

Boud, D., Cohen, R., & Walker, D. (1993). Introduction. In D. Boud, R. Cohen, & D. Walker (Eds.), Using experience for learning (pp. 1-19). Open University Press.

Braun, T. & Dierkes, P. (2017). Connecting students to nature: How intensity of nature experience and student age influence the success of outdoor education programs. Environmental Education Research, 23(7), 937-949.

Corbin, J., & Strauss, A. (1990). Grounded theory research: Procedures, canons, and evaluative criteria. Qualitative Sociology, 13(1), 3-21.

Creswell, J. W. (2014). Research design: Qualitative, quantitative, and mixed methods approaches (4th ed.). Sage Publishing.

Daniel, B. (2003). The life significance of a spiritually oriented outward bound-type wilderness expedition. Unpublished doctoral dissertation. Antioch New England Graduate School.

Daniel, B. (2010). Canvas, catalyst, crucible: Exploring the role of the setting in the wilderness experience. Journal of Outdoor Recreation, Education, and Leadership, 2(2), 133-136.

Dart, R. (1925). Australopithecus africanus: The man-ape of South Africa. Nature, 115, 195-199.

DeMares, R. (2000). Human peak experience triggered by encounters with cetaceans. Anthrozoos, 13(2), 89-103. 27524/089279300786999914

Dosen, A., & Ostwald, M. (2013). Prospect and refuge theory: Constructing a critical definition for architecture and design. The International Journal of Design in Society, 6(1), 9-21.

Elkins, J., & Elkins, N. (2007). Teaching geology in the field: Significant geoscience concept gains. Journal of Geoscience Education, 552(2), 126-132.

Falk, J. H., & Balling, J. D. (2010). Evolutionary influence on human landscape preference. Environment and Behavior, 42(4), 479-493.

Fredrickson, L. M., & Anderson, D. H. (1999). A qualitative exploration of the wilderness experience as a source of spiritual inspiration. Journal of Environmental Psychology, 19(1), 21-39.

Gallagher, W. (1993). The power of place: How our surroundings shape our thoughts, emotions, and actions. Poseidon Press.

Gibson, L. (2009). Cultural landscapes and identity. In L. Gibson & J. Pendlebury (Eds.), Valuing historic environments (pp. 67-92). Ashgate Publishing.

Han, K. (2007). Responses to six major terrestrial biomes in terms of scenic beauty, preference, and restorativeness. Environment and Behavior, 39(4), 529-556.

Hart, T. (1998). Inspiration: Exploring the experience and its meaning. Journal of Humanistic Psychology, 38(3), 7-35.

Heintzman, P. (2010). Nature-based recreation and spirituality: A complex relationship. Leisure Sciences, 32(1), 72-89.

Heintzman, P., & Mannell, R. C. (2003). Spiritual functions of leisure and spiritual well-being: Coping with time pressure. Leisure Sciences, 25(2-3), 207-230. 10804/01490400306563

Hildebrand, G. (1991). The Wright space: Pattern and meaning in Frank Lloyd Wright’s houses. University of Washington Press.

Holland, W. H., Powell, R. B., Thomsen, J. M., & Monz, C. A. (2018). A systematic review of the psychological, social, and educational outcomes associated with participation in wildland recreational activities. Journal of Outdoor Recreation, Education, and Leadership, 10(3), 197-225.

Hope, M. (2009). The importance of direct experience: A philosophical defense of fieldwork in human geography. Journal of Geography in Higher Education, 33(2), 169-182.

Hymer, S. (1990). On inspiration. The Psychotherapy Patient, 6(3-4), 17-38.

Kaplan, R., & Kaplan, S. (1989). The experience of nature: A psychological perspective. Ulrich Press.

Kaplan, S. (1995). The restorative benefits of nature: Toward an integrative framework. Journal of Environmental Psychology, 15(3), 169-182.

Kolb, D. (2015). Experiential learning: Experience as the source of learning and development (2nd ed.). Pearson FT Press.

Kudryavtsev, A., Stedman, R. C., & Krasny, M. E. (2012). Sense of place in environmental education. Environmental Education Research, 18(2), 229-250.

Lap-Chuen, T. (1998). The sublime: Groundwork towards a theory. Rochester University Press. (2020). Inspiration. In Lexico. Retrieved July 16, 2018. Retrieved from

Lorenz, K. Z. (2002). King Solomon’s ring (M. Wilson, Trans; 2nd ed.). Routledge. (Original work published 1949).

Manzo, L. C. (2005). For better or worse: Exploring multiple dimensions of place meaning. Journal of Environmental Psychology, 25(1), 67-86.

Maslow, A. (1964). Religions, values, and peak experiences. Penguin Press.

Mayer, F., & Frantz, C. (2004). The connectedness to nature scale: A measure of individuals’ feeling in community with nature. The Journal of Environmental Psychology, 24(4), 503-515.

McKeown, J. (2009). The first time: The impact of study abroad on college student intellectual development. SUNY Press.

Metzger, T. & Mcewan, D. (1999). Measurement of environmental sensitivity. The Journal of Environmental Education, 30(4), 38-39.

Milyavskaya, M., Ianakieva, I., Foxen-Craft, E., Colantuoni, A., & Koestner, R. (2012). Inspired to get there: The effects of trait and goal inspiration on goal progress. Personality and Individual Differences. 52(1), 56-60.

Mroz, E. A. (2016). Environmental attitudes and connections to landscapes of undergraduate regional field course students. (Publication No. 10018221) [Master’s thesis, Montreat College]. UMI Dissertations Publishing.

Ogburn, B. (2017). An exploration of connectedness to nature in teens after participation in an expeditionary science program. (Publication No. 10603339) [Master’s thesis, Montreat College]. UMI Dissertations Publishing.

Ogunseitan, O. A. (2005). Topophilia and the quality of life. Environmental Health Perspectives, 113(2), 143-148.

Okada, M., Okamura, T., & Zushi, K. (2013). The effects of in-depth outdoor experience on attitudes towards nature. Journal of Outdoor Recreation, Education, and Leadership, 5(3), 192-209.

Orion, N. (1993). A model for the development and implementation of field trips as an integral part of the science curriculum. School Science and Mathematics, 93(6), 325-331.

Powell, R. B., Ramshaw, G. P., Ogletree, S. S., & Kraft, K. (2016). Can heritage resources highlight changes to the natural environment caused by climate change? Evidence from the Antarctic tourism experience. Journal of Heritage Tourism, 11(1), 71-87. 0/1743873X.2015.1 082571

Purcell, T., Peron, E., & Berto, R. (2001). Why do preferences differ between scene types? Environment and Behavior 33(1): 93-106.

Reynolds, P. C., & Braithwaite, D. (2001). Towards a conceptual framework for wildlife tourism. Tourism Management, 22(1), 31-42.

Roggenbuck, J. W. & Driver, B. L. (2000). Benefits of nonfacilitated uses of wilderness. Presented at Wilderness science in a time of change conference. Missoula, MT, 1999. Ogden, UT: US Dept. of Agriculture. Proceedings RMRS-P-15-VOL-3.

Skibins, J. C., Powell, R. B., & Hallo, J. C. (2013). Charisma and conservation: Charismatic megafauna’s influence on Safari and zoo tourist pro conservation behaviors. Biodiversity and Conservation, 22(4), 959-982.

Straume, L. V., & Vittersø, J. (2012). Happiness, inspiration, and the fully functioning person: Separating hedonic and eudaimonic well-being in the workplace. The Journal of Positive Psychology, 7(5), 387-398.

Thrash, T. M., & Elliot, A. J. (2003). Inspiration as a psychological construct. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 84(4), 871-889.

Thrash, T. M., & Elliot, A. J. (2004). Inspiration: Core characteristics, component processes, antecedents, and function. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 87(6), 957-973. doi: 10.1037/0022-3514.87.6.957

Thrash, T. M., Elliot, A. J., Maruskin, L. A., & Cassidy, S. E. (2010). Inspiration and the promotion of well-being: Tests of causality and mediation. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 98(3), 488-506.

Thrash, T. M., Moldovan, E. G., Oleynick, V. C., & Maruskin, L. A. (2014). The psychology of inspiration. Social and Personality Psychology Compass, 8(9), 495-510.

Tuan, Y. F. (1974). Topophilia: A study of environmental perception, attitudes, and values. Columbia University Press.

Vaske, J. & Kobrin, K. (2001). Place attachment and environmentally responsible behavior. The Journal of Environmental Education, 3(4), 16-21.

Williams, K., & Harvey, D. (2001). Transcendent experience in forest environments. Journal of Environmental Psychology, 21(3), 249-260.

Wilson, E. O. (1984). Biophilia. Harvard University Press.






Regular Papers