Associate Professor, Department of Philosophy, Lewis & Clark College

The Savanna Hypothesis

Added on by jay odenbaugh.

Gordan Orians and Judith Heerwagen argue for the "Savanna Hypothesis"; i.e. our landscape preferences are innate and are the result of hominid evolution in East Africa during the Pleistocene. These preferences include:

  • Open spaces of low grasses with occasional bushes and trees
  • Presence of water in view or nearby
  • Opening in a least one direction with vantage to horizon
  • Evidence of animal life
  • Greenery including flowering and fruiting plants 

Balling and Falk (1982) did experiments putatively confirming the Savanna Hypothesis. They examined 6 age groups (8, 11, 15, 18, 35, 70+) having them look at slides of 5 different biomes (tropical rainforest, deciduous forest, coniferous forest, savanna, desert) with no animals or water present. No one preferred the rainforest or desert and 8- and 11-year olds preferred the savanna over the other two. 

Question: Do Bailling and Falk's results provide reason to believe Orians and Heerwagen's hypothesis? If not, why not?