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Yi-Chia Chen, Brian Scholl; Seeing and liking: Biased perception of ambiguous figures based on aesthetic preferences for how objects should face within a frame. Journal of Vision 2013;13(9):59. doi: 10.1167/13.9.59.
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© ARVO (1962-2015); The Authors (2016-present)
Aesthetic preferences are ubiquitous in visual experience. Indeed, it seems nearly impossible in many circumstances to perceive a scene without also liking or disliking it. While aesthetic factors are occasionally studied in vision science, they are often treated as something that occurs only after the rest of visual processing is complete. In contrast, the present study explores whether aesthetic preferences influence other types of visual processing — focusing on the disambiguation of bistable figures. We used bistable images whose competing interpretations differed not only in their semantic content (e.g. duck vs. rabbit) but also in the direction they appeared to be facing (to the left vs. to the right). Observers viewed one such figure at a time, placed within a visible frame — near the left edge, near the right edge, or in the center — and they pressed a key to indicate which interpretation they saw throughout each 15-second trial. Previous work with unambiguous images identified an "inward bias": when an object is near the border of a frame, we like the image more if the object is facing inward (toward the center) vs. outward. When observers in the present project viewed a bistable figure, its position within the frame influenced what they saw at the beginning of each trial. For example, seeing a rightward-facing figure (whether duck or rabbit) was most likely when the figure was near the left border, and least likely when near the right border. The same pattern held for the total duration of each percept throughout a trial. In sum, observers tended to see whichever interpretation would cause the figure to be facing inward — i.e. whichever they would like more. We discuss the roles of attention and familiarity in such effects, and conclude that aesthetic factors play an active role in visual processing.
Meeting abstract presented at VSS 2013
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