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Subcultural variations in responses to the urban environment

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Thesis type
(Thesis) M.A.
Date created
This research examines variations in man-environment relationships within contemporary industrial cities through a case study conducted in the city of Vancouver, British Columbia, with the two major aims of adding to cultural geographical knowledge of human behaviour and of aiding in the achievement of good environmental quality for all city residents. Specifically, it attempts to explain, in terms of cultural background the differences in the responses of a group of social welfare clients and a group of company directors to their environment. Some past and current geographical postulates are examined and found to be derivative of cognitive theory. This type of psychological theory is in turn reviewed and rejected in favour of a "mediation model" developed by C.E. Osgood and based upon stimulus-response principles. From this model and a consideration of the relations between the concepts of social class and culture, two hypotheses are advanced for testing: that the study groups will have significantly different perceptions of the City of Vancouver and that the connotative meanings of those landscape objects which are perceived by both groups will be significantly different. The testing of these hypotheses involved conducting two interviews with each of 30 subjects. The first, to discover their perceptions, used a questionnaire modified from one used by planner K. Lynch. It was found that the first hypothesis was valid, although a zone of overlap including five landscape objects occurred. To test whether the connotative meanings of these five objects were different for the study groups, a semantic differential test developed by C.E. Osgood was employed and it was discovered that the second hypothesis was true only for two of these objects. In the conclusion, the limitations of the study are discussed and its implications for both cultural geography and landscape change in the city are examined. It is suggested that Osgood's model of human behaviour is worthy of further study by geographers, that the semantic differential test is a useful addition to the repertory of techniques available to those studying man-environment relations and that human perception and meaning be considered as major variables, along with economics, in decisions on planned landscape change in the city.
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Scholarly level
Supervisor or Senior Supervisor
Thesis advisor: Wagner, P.L.
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