Object Domains and the Experience of Beauty

in Art & Perception
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The purpose of the present study was to specify whether the structure of the experience of beauty is domain-specific or domain-general. Five basic descriptors of the experience of beauty were specified: two central descriptors, Beauty and Attractiveness, and three descriptors that represented different 16 aspects of Beauty: Pleasure (hedonic aspect), Harmony (perceptual aspect), and Interestingness (motivational aspect). Four groups of 25 participants rated different sets of visual stimuli on the five bipolar seven-step scales: Beautiful–Ugly, Attractive–Repulsive, Pleasant–Unpleasant, Harmonious–Disharmonious and Interesting–Boring. In preliminary studies four sets of stimuli were extracted: (1) environmental scenes, (2) human faces and bodies, (3) abstract forms and (4) artworks. Correlations between descriptors, and multiple regression analyses revealed that, in all of the categories of objects, attractiveness was consistently closer to pleasure than harmony and interestingness. The relationships between the other descriptors were category-specific: beauty was closer to pleasure in cases of environmental objects and artworks and it was closer to harmony in the case of human faces and bodies and abstract forms. These results suggest that the structure of the experience of beauty is partially general to all categories of objects and partially domain-specific.

Object Domains and the Experience of Beauty

in Art & Perception



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    Hypothetical network of correlations between five descriptors: Beauty, Attractiveness, Pleasure, Harmony and Interestingness. Correlations are presented as inverted distances (the shorter the distance, the higher the correlation). Inter-correlations of surrounding descriptors are represented with lines, whereas the stronger expected associations of central descriptors with Pleasure are emphasized by an ellipse.

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    Hypothetical networks of correlations between the five descriptors for four categories of objects. Correlations are presented as inverted distances (shorter the distance, higher the correlation). Inter-correlations of surrounding descriptors are presented with lines, whereas the stronger expected associations of central descriptors and surrounding descriptors are emphasized by ellipses.

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    Networks of correlations between five descriptors for four categories of objects. The diagrams were obtained in MDS where distances were calculated as inverted correlations (Pearson R’s were converted to Fisher Z values): shorter the distance, the higher the correlation. Inter-correlations of the three ‘surrounding’ descriptors are presented with lines, whereas the stronger associations between ‘central’ descriptors (Beauty and Attractiveness) and ‘surrounding’ descriptors (Pleasure, Harmony and Interestingness) are emphasized by ellipses.

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