September 2019
Volume 19, Issue 10
Open Access
Vision Sciences Society Annual Meeting Abstract  |   September 2019
The role of warmth and complexity in aesthetic evaluation of color photographs.
Author Affiliations & Notes
  • Alexander J Bies
    Psychology Department, College of Arts and Sciences, Gonzaga University
  • Margaret E Sereno
    Department of Psychology, College of Arts and Sciences, University of Oregon
Journal of Vision September 2019, Vol.19, 98d. doi:
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      Alexander J Bies, Margaret E Sereno; The role of warmth and complexity in aesthetic evaluation of color photographs.. Journal of Vision 2019;19(10):98d.

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

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Salient characteristics of images such as color and texture attract our attention, but at present it is unclear how these combine to impact higher-level judgments such as aesthetic evaluation. In the present study, we compare the relative contributions of perceptions of “warmth” (an evaluative judgment about qualities linked to color) and “complexity” (an evaluative judgement purportedly linked to the physical properties of edge and texture complexity) to aesthetic evaluations of landscape photographs. 40 participants (29 females) each rated 200 color landscape photographs in a repeated measures design across a series of six blocks. In sequential pairs of blocks, participants rated the images on one of three properties: “aesthetic value,” “complexity,” or “warmth.” During each trial a single image was displayed while the participant rated the image on a continuous scale from 0 to 1, where ratings closer to 0 indicated lower values of the judgment (e.g., lower aesthetic value) and ratings closer to 1 indicated higher values (e.g., higher aesthetic value). Thus, for each participant, we were able to compute reliability scores that reflect the relationship between the first and second ratings on each parameter (aesthetic value, complexity, warmth). Participants whose responses produced significant correlations on all three within-rating comparisons were retained for analysis of the relationship among the three parameters. At the within-participant level, models derived from these participants’ data (N = 20, 14F) revealed that complexity and warmth contribute significantly to the prediction of aesthetic evaluation, and that each contributes a significant amount of unique variance in the cognitive models derived from nearly all participants’ responses. This may mean that the physical qualities linked to complexity and warmth are interpreted similarly across individuals. In addition, correlations across individuals were moderately strong, on average. This suggests there is a degree of typicality in determinations of which images are aesthetically appealing.

Acknowledgement: American Psychological Association Dissertation Research Award 

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