August 2010
Volume 10, Issue 7
Vision Sciences Society Annual Meeting Abstract  |   August 2010
Aesthetics of Spatial Composition: Semantic Effects in Two-Object Pictures
Author Affiliations
  • Mieke H.R. Leyssen
    Department of Psychology, KULeuven
  • Sarah Linsen
    Department of Psychology, KULeuven
  • Jonathan S. Gardner
    Department of Psychology, UC Berkeley
  • Stephen E. Palmer
    Department of Psychology, UC Berkeley
Journal of Vision August 2010, Vol.10, 1235. doi:
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      Mieke H.R. Leyssen, Sarah Linsen, Jonathan S. Gardner, Stephen E. Palmer; Aesthetics of Spatial Composition: Semantic Effects in Two-Object Pictures. Journal of Vision 2010;10(7):1235.

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      © ARVO (1962-2015); The Authors (2016-present)

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Previous research on aesthetic response to spatial composition of simple pictures examined preferences for the horizontal position of single objects within a rectangular frame (Palmer, Gardner & Wickens, 2007). The results revealed a center bias for front-facing objects and an inward bias for left- or right-facing objects. The current studies examined aesthetic preferences for compositions containing two objects. Each picture contained one stationary object, whose position was fixed, and one movable object, whose position was adjusted by the participant to create the most aesthetically pleasing composition. The stationary object was presented at one of five equally-spaced locations along a horizontal axis. In the first experiment, four vertically symmetrical objects without a facing direction – two short, wide objects (sponge, cake) and two tall thin objects (plastic bottle of liquid dish soap, bottle of sparkling wine) – were presented in pairs consisting of one short, wide object and one tall, thin object. The center points of the preferred position for the movable objects were then binned to compute frequency histograms of their preferred positions. When the two objects were related (wine and cake or liquid soap and sponge), people generally placed the movable object close to the fixed object, whereas when they were unrelated (wine and sponge or liquid soap and cake), people generally placed the movable object far away from the fixed object. In a second study the same data were collected in a between-participants design – such that each participant saw only a single pair of objects – to control for possible demand characteristics arising from the same participant seeing both related and unrelated pairs of objects. The second experiment also assessed the effects of semantic relatedness on the preferred direction of facing.

Leyssen, M. H.R. Linsen, S. Gardner, J. S. Palmer, S. E. (2010). Aesthetics of Spatial Composition: Semantic Effects in Two-Object Pictures [Abstract]. Journal of Vision, 10(7):1235, 1235a,, doi:10.1167/10.7.1235. [CrossRef]
 National Science Foundation Grant BCS-0745820.

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