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Annu Rev Psychol. 2013;64:77-107. doi: 10.1146/annurev-psych-120710-100504. Epub 2012 Sep 27.

Visual aesthetics and human preference.

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Department of Psychology, University of California, Berkeley, California 94720, USA.


Human aesthetic preference in the visual domain is reviewed from definitional, methodological, empirical, and theoretical perspectives. Aesthetic science is distinguished from the perception of art and from philosophical treatments of aesthetics. The strengths and weaknesses of important behavioral techniques are presented and discussed, including two-alternative forced-choice, rank order, subjective rating, production/adjustment, indirect, and other tasks. Major findings are reviewed about preferences for colors (single colors, color combinations, and color harmony), spatial structure (low-level spatial properties, shape properties, and spatial composition within a frame), and individual differences in both color and spatial structure. Major theoretical accounts of aesthetic response are outlined and evaluated, including explanations in terms of mere exposure effects, arousal dynamics, categorical prototypes, ecological factors, perceptual and conceptual fluency, and the interaction of multiple components. The results of the review support the conclusion that aesthetic response can be studied rigorously and meaningfully within the framework of scientific psychology.

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