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Front Neurosci. 2018 Sep 28;12:678. doi: 10.3389/fnins.2018.00678. eCollection 2018.

Edge-Orientation Entropy Predicts Preference for Diverse Types of Man-Made Images.

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Experimental Aesthetics Group, Institute of Anatomy I, Jena University Hospital, School of Medicine, University of Jena, Jena, Germany.
Department of Psychological Sciences, University of Liverpool, Liverpool, United Kingdom.


We recently found that luminance edges are more evenly distributed across orientations in large subsets of traditional artworks, i.e., artworks are characterized by a relatively high entropy of edge orientations, when compared to several categories of other (non-art) images. In the present study, we asked whether edge-orientation entropy is associated with aesthetic preference in a wide variety of other man-made visual patterns and scenes. In the first (exploratory) part of the study, participants rated the aesthetic appeal of simple shapes, artificial ornamental patterns, facades of buildings, scenes of interior architecture, and music album covers. Results indicated that edge-orientation entropy predicts aesthetic ratings for these stimuli. However, the magnitude of the effect depended on the type of images analyzed, on the range of entropy values encountered, and on the type of aesthetic rating (pleasing, interesting, or harmonious). For example, edge-orientation entropy predicted about half of the variance when participants rated facade photographs for pleasing and interesting, but only for 3.5% of the variance for harmonious ratings of music album covers. We also asked whether edge-orientation entropy relates to the well-established human preference for curved over angular shapes. Our analysis revealed that edge-orientation entropy was as good or an even better predictor for the aesthetic ratings than curvilinearity. Moreover, entropy could substitute for shape, at least in part, to predict the aesthetic ratings. In the second (experimental) part of this study, we generated complex line stimuli that systematically varied in their edge-orientation entropy and curved/angular shape. Here, edge-orientation entropy was a more powerful predictor for ratings of pleasing and harmonious than curvilinearity, and as good a predictor for interesting. Again, the two image properties shared a large portion of variance between them. In summary, our results indicate that edge-orientation entropy predicts aesthetic ratings in diverse man-made visual stimuli. Moreover, the preference for high edge-orientation entropy shares a large portion of predicted variance with the preference for curved over angular stimuli.


aesthetic rating; curved/angular stimuli; experimental aesthetics; image properties; luminance edges; visual preference

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