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Aesthetic Science: Human Preference for Color and Spatial Composition

Steven Palmer, Ph.D., University of California, Berkeley

Despite the importance and ubiquity of aesthetic response, its perceptual basis in vision is almost entirely neglected. I will report results from three projects that investigate people's aesthetic responses to color and spatial composition. The spatial studies show strong, consistent preferences for simple rectangular images containing familiar objects and configurations to be positioned at or near the center of the frame (the "center bias") and to face into the frame (the "inward bias"). Related experiments on people's judgments of the "goodness of fit" for probe shapes (small circles and triangles) at various positions and orientations within a rectangular frame also exhibit the center and inward biases, with striking evidence for the role of symmetry and balance in spatial composition. People's preferences for color combinations are better predicted by their rated "harmony" than by preferences for the individual colors. Moreover, people tend to agree about the degree to which pairs of colors are harmonious, even though they may disagree about how much they like harmonious versus disharmonious colors.

Contradicting many color theorists in the art world, color harmony appears to be primarily based on hue similarity ("analogous" colors) with no increase in perceived harmony for complimentary colors. The results demonstrate that aesthetic science is an exciting topic within cognitive science that can shed new light on the nature of our appreciation of the visual world.

Date: 10.07.2008

Time: 18:00 h

Location: Haus der Wissenschaft, Sandstraße 4/5, 28195 Bremen, Olbers-Saal, 1.OG

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