An Introduction to Refuge and Prospect

As humans, we’re conditioned to seek both refuge and prospect.

First proposed as an aesthetic ideal by Jay Appleton in 1975, the idea of refuge and prospect has a broader application today.

Origins in Landscape

Appleton was a British geographer who published his seminal work The Experience of Landscape which introduced habitat theory and promoted the concept of refuge and prospect.

At its core, the refuge and prospect theory states that artistic appreciation is “an acquired preference for particular methods of satisfying inborn desires.” Those desires are for safety and opportunity – refuge and prospect.

Archetype Foundation

Similar to archetypes, this model of appeal is universal to all humans, regardless of culture or experience. Appleton proposes that it stems from a subconscious awareness of our surroundings. When we “like” the place that is optimal for ancient human survival, we are more likely to thrive.

It’s hard-wired in our brains. We are programmed to respond whether we realize it or not. Yet even as we’ve abandoned our pre-historic hunting grounds on the edge of the savannah, our need for refuge and prospect hasn’t diminished. We simply have found new ways to gain our fill.

Beyond Art

Beyond artistic appreciation, refuge and prospect plays a role in our psyche. It is part of the human condition and something we continuously seek, whether conscious or subconscious.

This fundamental, evolutionary drive manifests itself in our day-to-day. From our comfort level at our favorite restaurants to our pursuit of the next big thing. It is part of how we live our lives and it impacts decisions we make, big and small.

Refuge and prospect is the root of other, well-known human behaviors. The Fear Of Missing Out (FOMO), decision theory, habit formation and many more can all trace core elements back to refuge and prospect. It underlies many of our subconscious decisions and behaviors.


And yet, few have chosen to explore the theory as it applies to consumerism today. The exploration and application of refuge and prospect beyond it’s origins in landscape aesthetics is the primary purpose of this site.

We’ll explore the many facets of the theory, its contribution to other behaviors and new ways to look at the world. Join us – we look forward to taking this journey with you.


Image courtesy mary_gaston22 via Flickr and Creative Commons license.