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Laterality. 2012;17(5):515-32. doi: 10.1080/1357650X.2011.586701. Epub 2011 Nov 7.

Lateral organisation in nineteenth-century studio photographs is influenced by the direction of writing: a comparison of Iranian and Spanish photographs.

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  • 1Museum of East Asian Art, Cologne, Germany.


The direction of reading has been found to have a significant effect upon aesthetic preference, with left-to-right readers showing a preference for stimuli with a rightward directionality while right-to-left readers prefer stimuli with a leftward directionality. This study looks at a large set of posed, studio photographs to study the cultural interaction between direction of reading and lateral organisation, comparing a corpus of 735 nineteenth-century photographs from Iran (right-to-left reading) with a similar corpus of 898 photographs from Spain (left-to-right readers). Five separate types of composition were studied: linear ordering, usually by height; couples; individuals posing by a chair; individuals posing by a table; and portraits. Lateral preferences were found for all five types of photograph, with the lateral organisation of Iranian photographs being the reverse of that in the Spanish photographs. These data provide support for the influence of direction of reading upon aesthetic organisation in naturalistically produced photographs.

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