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The Role of Urban Green Spaces in Perceptions of Safety and Situation Construal

Franke, Kaya-Malin (2021) The Role of Urban Green Spaces in Perceptions of Safety and Situation Construal.

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Abstract:Increasing safety perceptions in public spaces has become a worldwide concern, as safety is a primary component of quality of life. Research demonstrates a relationship between urban green space(s) (UGS) and perceptions of safety. However, a complex duality of UGS – restorative but also threatening – and little evidence about causal effects show the need for further investigation. Therefore, this study aimed at adding to existing literature investigating the relationship between UGS and safety perceptions through the employment of a between-groups experimental design. More specifically it aimed to determine to what extent the presence and maintenance of UGS affect safety perceptions and interpretations of an ambiguous situation. For this purpose, behavioral and perceptual responses of three different groups (n = 26) were compared after exposure to a virtual reality (VR) environment that differed in the presence and maintenance of UGS. Participants (N = 78) were either exposed to a neighborhood featuring well-maintained, uncared, or no UGS. Findings predominantly suggest that it does not make a difference whether UGS are well-maintained, uncared or present at all, in how safe people feel and how they frame social situations. The counter-intuitive result might have to do with the study’s design. Even though the study takes into account that the influence of UGS on perceived safety will vary depending on a number of spatial attributes, more attention should be given to the situated context. The VR neighborhood was of relatively poor quality. Hence, a situational setting, which features neighborhood characteristics indicative of social and physical disorder, calls for particular attention to the level of maintenance and visibility of UGS to overshadow negative effects of other environmental cues. The study findings could also point towards the interaction of several social or physical features of the built environment. Well-maintained UGS alone may not considerably influence cognitive responses comprising safety perceptions and situation construal. Possible directions for future research point to adding embellishment that further increases the visibility and maintenance of UGS or combining UGS with additional urban design measures that enhance positive environmental perceptions. Further investigation into the effect of UGS on safety perceptions is vital as it can guide urban planning efforts in providing recommendations for more effective crime prevention strategies. Moreover, UGS knowingly benefit well-being and mitigate the ‘urban heat island’ effect. Gaining deeper insights from future research may help urban planners to include considerations in interventions improving the mental-restoration and thermal comfort experienced in a place.
Item Type:Essay (Master)
Faculty:BMS: Behavioural, Management and Social Sciences
Subject:77 psychology
Programme:Psychology MSc (66604)
Link to this item:http://purl.utwente.nl/essays/86184
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