Tony Hiss wrote some articles for the New Yorker over a decade ago, including one called "Reflections: Experiencing Places." He notes:
According to Anton Ehrenzweig [University of London art historian], his work with artists shows that people have an innate capacity that he calls "utter watchfulness": we can pay equal attention to everything at once, omitting nothing and at the same time emphasizing nothing.
Dr. John H. Falk, an ecologist and special science assistant at the Smithsonian Institution, is the expert on how human being respond to grass... [and he] thinks we may have inborn responses to several other parts of the natural landscape. "I'd be amazed if the preference for water doesn't prove to be innate... We've learned that we have t avoid having water in any of the pictures we show subjects. It's so highly preferred that its very presence will raise preference by an order of magnitude...
Jay Appleton, a geographer at the University of Hull, has identified two more human preferences in landscapes: "prospect" and "refuge." Both, he says, are aspects of the environment that support human functioning and make survival more likely. "Prospect" means a long, sweeping, vista -- a place where viewing is unhindered and we can take in information from miles around. "Refuge" means a hiding place where, from concealment, we can see without being seen, and gain information without giving away information about ourselves.