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To date, aesthetic preference for abstract patterns has mainly been examined in the relation to static stimuli. However, dynamic art forms (e.g., motion pictures, kinetic art) are arguably more powerful in producing emotional responses. To start the exploration of aesthetic preferences for dynamic stimuli (stripped of meaning and context) we conducted three experiments. Symmetrical or random configurations were created. Each line element had a local rotation, and the whole configuration also underwent a global transformation (horizontal translation, rotation, expansion, horizontal shear). Participants provided explicit preference ratings for these patterns. As expected results showed a preference for dynamic symmetrical patterns over random. When global transformations were compared, expansion was the preferred dynamic transformation whilst participants liked the horizontal shear transformation the least. Overall, these results show that preference for symmetry persists and is enhanced for dynamic stimuli, and that there are systematic preferences for global transformations.

In: Art & Perception
In: Spatial Vision

An image reflected in a mirror may appears in the visual field in a location opposite to the physical location of the object in the environment, in particular it may appear on the right when the object is on the left and vice versa. Through experience people have knowledge that reflections are not real objects an also that they are informative about object locations. We tested the importance of this knowledge in a simple task in which participants had to respond to a visual stimulus (light from an LED) that could appear in the right or left visual field. Participants had to respond with the contralateral hand, i.e., they had to press the right button if the light was on the left and vice versa. An irrelevant sound could also originate from the left or the right side. To avoid different bouncing of the sound the mirror condition was compared to a glass condition so that the solid surfaces were identical in size. When light and sound had the same spatial origin responses were faster, however this was only true as long as the light was seen though a glass and not seen reflected in a mirror. We conclude that participants are influenced by the knowledge about the origin of a light when when this information is irrelevant for their task.

In: Seeing and Perceiving


A large number of studies have focused on the aesthetic value of smoothly curved objects. By contrast, angular shapes tend to be associated with tertiary qualities such as threat, hardness, loudness, nervousness, etc. The present study focuses on the effect of curvilinearity vs angularity on the aesthetic experience of design artefacts. We used the drawings of everyday objects with novel shapes created by 56 designers (IUAV image dataset). Each drawing had two versions: a smooth and an angular version. To test new tertiary associations, beyond aesthetic value, we obtained ratings for seven characteristics (‘soft/hard, sad/cheerful, male/female, bad/good, aggressive/peaceful, agitated/serene, useless/useful’) from 174 naïve observers. Importantly, each naïve rater saw only one of the two versions of an object. The results confirmed a significant relation between smoothness and hardness as well as other (tertiary) associations. The link between smoothness and usefulness confirms that perceptual utility is significantly influenced by the shape of the object. This finding suggests that tertiary qualities convey both static and functional information about design objects. The role of perceptual constraints in drawing design artefacts is also discussed.

In: Art & Perception

There are compositional biases in works of art that have been documented in static images. This study extends the analysis to moving pictures. We examined eight films by four different directors (Ford, Leone, Kurosawa, Chahine), each with a male actor in the major role. These directors are also from different countries (USA, Italy, Japan, Egypt). The analysis focused on three compositional aspects: a) the orientation of the face of the actor (which cheek was visible), b) the position of the face within the image (positioned either to the left of the screen showing the left or right cheek or to the right of the screen showing the left or right cheek), and c) the movement of the actor within the scene (moving to the left or to the right). Unlike in paintings there is no evidence that the left cheek was visible more often than the right. However, we confirmed that position and facing direction are related, i.e. the actor tends to face toward the centre of the screen. With respect to the analyses of movement, there was a greater frequency of movements from left to right, and this may explain the lower than expected frequency of the left cheek. Interestingly, we found a cultural trend in that the pattern of results from Western directors did not extend to the films by Chahine, which may be influenced by reading direction.

In: Art & Perception

We used ‘selfies’, self-portraits taken with a hand-held smartphone camera, to test three known principles of photographic composition: The rule of thirds, the golden ratio rule, and the eye centering principle. Although they are often taught and discussed, the origin of these principles remains unclear. It is possible that they stem from constraints on human perceptual processes. Alternatively, these principles might serve more practical purposes, such as forcing photographers to explore all quadrants of the image. Selfies provide an ideal test bed for these questions due to the control they give self-photographers when they compose the photograph. We used a database of images created by non-professional photographers (N=388). After analysis, we conclude that there little support for any of the three principles, suggesting that none is strongly rooted in spontaneous perceptual preferences.

In: Art & Perception