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William S. Griscom, Stephen E. Palmer; Individual Differences in Preference for Harmony. Journal of Vision 2010;10(7):411. doi: 10.1167/10.7.411.
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Previous research has shown that individuals differ in the degree to which they prefer harmonious color pairs, as measured by the correlation between their ratings of preference for figure-ground color pairs and their ratings of harmony for the same color pairs (Schloss & Palmer, VSS-2007). In this study, we investigated whether individual preference for visually “harmonious” or internally coherent stimuli is consistent across different stimulus types. The stimuli used were: 35 images of a single dot at one of 35 positions inside a rectangular frame, 22 Garner-type 9-dot configurations, and 16 color pairs. All displays were chosen to span the full range of internal coherence possible within the given stimulus type. Twenty subjects were asked to rate aesthetic preferences for each stimulus on a computerized line-mark scale, and were later asked to rate the internal coherence of the same stimuli (“harmony” for color pairs, “goodness of fit” for dot-in-a-frame images, and “simplicity” for Garner dot patterns) using the same method. Subjects also completed the 44-question Big Five Inventory and the 40-question Sensation Seeking Scale. We found that individual subjects' preference for internally coherent stimuli (i.e., harmonious/good-fitting/simple displays) was strongly correlated across different stimulus types: r=.46 for color pairs and dot-in-a-frame images, r=.71 for color pairs and Garner dot patterns, and r=.49 for dot-in-a-frame images and Garner dot patterns). Somewhat surprisingly, the personality measures we examined were not significantly related to preference for harmonious stimuli. These results may indicate that there may be an underlying factor (aesthetic style?) connecting preference for harmony across visual stimulus types, and we are currently engaged in an expanded follow-up study using a larger number of color-pairs, quasi-randomly generated polygons that differ in the number of sides and degree of symmetry, and harmonious-to-dissonant solo piano music.
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