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Jonathan S. Gardner, Stephen E. Palmer; Framing aesthetic judgments. Journal of Vision 2006;6(6):477. doi: https://doi.org/10.1167/6.6.477.
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Painters, photographers, and graphic designers regularly face the problem of how to frame the subjects of their creations in aesthetically pleasing ways. We investigated people's aesthetic responses to the position, facing direction, and size of single objects within rectangular frames using free choices in taking actual photographs and 2AFC preferences. The experiments tested the validity of rules of thumb taught in the visual arts, most of which have never been tested experimentally. One example is the “facing rule:” if the subject of the work has horizontal directionality (e.g., a sideview of a person, car, or teapot), it should point into rather than out of the frame. An experiment testing this rule examined subjects' aesthetic preferences for pictures of objects pointing into and out of the frame as a function of their position and directionality. In the directional (sideview) conditions, preferences were found for objects pointing into versus out of the frame. In both the directional and nondirectional (frontview) conditions, subjects tended to prefer objects positioned at the center of the frame. Further experiments examined preferences for the size of objects relative to the frame and its interaction with position and directionality. The results are discussed in terms of the power of the center in visual art (Arnheim, 1988). People prefer the subject to be located in the center of the frame, but if an object is not in the center, they prefer it to be oriented toward the center.
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