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Proceedings Paper

Personalized visual aesthetics
Author(s): Edward A. Vessel; Jonathan Stahl; Natalia Maurer; Alexander Denker; G. Gabrielle Starr
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Paper Abstract

How is visual information linked to aesthetic experience, and what factors determine whether an individual finds a particular visual experience pleasing? We have previously shown that individuals’ aesthetic responses are not determined by objective image features but are instead a function of internal, subjective factors that are shaped by a viewers’ personal experience. Yet for many classes of stimuli, culturally shared semantic associations give rise to similar aesthetic taste across people. In this paper, we investigated factors that govern whether a set of observers will agree in which images are preferred, or will instead exhibit more “personalized” aesthetic preferences. In a series of experiments, observers were asked to make aesthetic judgments for different categories of visual stimuli that are commonly evaluated in an aesthetic manner (faces, natural landscapes, architecture or artwork). By measuring agreement across observers, this method was able to reveal instances of highly individualistic preferences. We found that observers showed high agreement on their preferences for images of faces and landscapes, but much lower agreement for images of artwork and architecture. In addition, we found higher agreement for heterosexual males making judgments of beautiful female faces than of beautiful male faces. These results suggest that preferences for stimulus categories that carry evolutionary significance (landscapes and faces) come to rely on similar information across individuals, whereas preferences for artifacts of human culture such as architecture and artwork, which have fewer basic-level category distinctions and reduced behavioral relevance, rely on a more personalized set of attributes.

Paper Details

Date Published: 25 February 2014
PDF: 8 pages
Proc. SPIE 9014, Human Vision and Electronic Imaging XIX, 90140S (25 February 2014); doi: 10.1117/12.2043126
Show Author Affiliations
Edward A. Vessel, New York Univ. (United States)
Jonathan Stahl, New York Univ. (United States)
Natalia Maurer, New York Univ. (United States)
Alexander Denker, National Institute of Mental Health (United States)
G. Gabrielle Starr, New York Univ. (United States)


Published in SPIE Proceedings Vol. 9014:
Human Vision and Electronic Imaging XIX
Bernice E. Rogowitz; Thrasyvoulos N. Pappas; Huib de Ridder, Editor(s)

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