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Jonathan S. Gardner, Stephen E. Palmer; Representational Fit in Position and Perspective: A Unified Aesthetic Account. Journal of Vision 2010;10(7):1232. doi: https://doi.org/10.1167/10.7.1232.
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© ARVO (1962-2015); The Authors (2016-present)
Previous research on aesthetic preference for spatial compositions has shown robust and systematic preferences for object locations within frames, such as the center bias, the inward bias, and various ecological biases (Palmer, Gardner, & Wickens, 2008; Gardner & Palmer, VSS-2006, VSS-2008, VSS-2009). These preferences can be dramatically altered, however, by changing contextual meaning through different titles for the same picture (Gardner & Palmer, VSS-2009). Perspective is a similar factor: People also prefer canonical perspectives (Palmer, Rosch, & Chase, 1981) when rating their aesthetic response to pictures of everyday objects (Khalil & McBeath, VSS-2006), but these preferences can also be shifted by changing the context through different titles. Our theoretical account of preference for the composition that best fits the context – which we call “representational fit” (Gardner & Palmer, VSS-2009) – can explain not only preferences in the “default” case, where the goal is simply to present the focal object(s) optimally in a way that best captures its most salient features (e.g., as in stock photography, see Gardner, Fowlkes, Nothelfer, and Palmer, VSS-2008), but also more nuanced and realistic cases in which there is a meaning associated with the image beyond its explicit image content. The current research examines several aspects of this preference for representational fit. People prefer non-standard compositions (with regard to position and/or perspective) more than standard compositions, so long as there is a context that justifies the unexpected composition. Put another way, there is greater artistic value in novelty and violating expectations, provided that the results are meaningful and coherent. These results provide strong evidence for representational fit as an aesthetic theory that unifies fluency accounts, where the default context prevails (Reber, Schwarz, & Winkielman, 2004), with classic aesthetic accounts in terms of novelty and violating expectations, where a nonstandard meaning is intended or inferred.
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