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© POSbase 2004 Psychology of beauty and philosophy of art Rolf Reber Department of Psychosocial Science University of Bergen.

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Presentation on theme: "© POSbase 2004 Psychology of beauty and philosophy of art Rolf Reber Department of Psychosocial Science University of Bergen."— Presentation transcript:

1 © POSbase 2004 Psychology of beauty and philosophy of art Rolf Reber Department of Psychosocial Science University of Bergen

2 © POSbase 2004 A Tour through the Talk A perceptual fluency theory of beauty is presented. First, beauty is defined. I then explain the theory and some of the core findings. I am going to discuss what this new theory explains what traditional theories of beauty can not explain, presenting recent data from our laboratory. Finally, I discuss the interaction of the psychology of beauty and the philosophy of art.

3 © POSbase 2004 Beauty The philosopher George Santayana defined beauty as value positive, intrinsic, and objectified. Value positive and intrinsic mean that beauty provides pleasure without any reasoning about expected utility. Objectified means that people experience beauty as an attribute of an object, not as a personal preference, like a cold drink on a hot day. There are basically three views to answer the question What is beauty?:

4 © POSbase 2004 Beauty (1)Several theorists tried to define beauty by objective features, like symmetry or balance. Beauty in this sense is based on biological equipment of the perceptual system. This view of beauty was so dominant in 16th century that artists introduced pattern books with pictorial elements that artists could copy and combine with each other in order to create beauty.

5 © POSbase 2004 Beauty (2) Another view is that beautiful is what pleases the senses; what pleases the senses is different from person to person so that beauty is in the eye of the beholder or de gustibus non est disputandum (taste cannot be debated). Beauty in this sense may also be socially constructed.

6 © POSbase 2004 Beauty (3) Finally, the sense of beauty can emerge from patterns in the way people and objects relate. It is the interaction of characteristics of the perceptual system and the object that determines aesthetic experience, like in the processing fluency theory of beauty (Reber et al., 2004)

7 © POSbase 2004 A Perceptual Fluency Theory of Beauty Reber, Schwarz, & Winkielman (2004) presented a theory of beauty that is based on processing fluency. Processing fluency means the ease with which stimulus materials can be processed.beauty We found that objective speed at different perceptual stages contribute jointly to the phenomenal experience of fluency.

8 © POSbase 2004 A Perceptual Fluency Theory of Beauty The proposed theory is based on four basic assumptions: (1)Objects differ in the fluency with which they can be processed; (2)Processing fluency is itself hedonically marked; (3)Processing fluency feeds into judgments of aesthetic appreciation; (4)The impact of fluency is moderated by expectations and attribution.

9 © POSbase 2004 A Perceptual Fluency Theory of Beauty (1) Objects differ in the fluency with which they can be processed. Variables that facilitate fluent processing include all objective features of stimuli, like goodness of form, symmetry, figure- ground contrast, as well as experience with a stimulus, for example repeated exposure or prototypicality.

10 © POSbase 2004 A Perceptual Fluency Theory of Beauty (2) Processing fluency is itself hedonically marked and high fluency is subjectively experienced as positive (Reber, Winkielman, & Schwarz, 1998), as indicated by psychophysiological findings (Winkielman & Cacioppo, 2001).

11 © POSbase 2004 Perceptual Fluency and Affect One theoretical account (Bornstein & DAgostino, 1994) claimed that the link between mere exposure and affect is mediated by perceptual fluency:affect perceptual fluency Several studies found effects of repeated stimulus exposure on affective preference (e.g., Zajonc, 1968).affective preference

12 © POSbase 2004 Perceptual Fluency and Affect One theoretical account (Bornstein & DAgostino, 1994) claimed that the link between mere exposure and affect is mediated by perceptual fluency:affect perceptual fluency Several studies found effects of repeated stimulus exposure on affective preference (Kunst-Wilson & Zajonc, 1980; Zajonc, 1968).affective preference Kunst-Wilson & Zajonc, 1980 Contributor

13 © POSbase 2004 Perceptual Fluency Judgments of Disliking Positive Repeated Exposure of Stimuli Other Variable (e.g., figure- ground contrast) Judgments of Liking Perceptual Fluency and Affect

14 © POSbase 2004 Perceptual Fluency and Affect: Physiological Evidence The authors replicated studies from Reber et al. (1998). In addition, they measured elektromyographic activity of the Zygomaticus Major which indicates expression of a positive affective reaction. The study of Winkielman and Cacioppo (2001): Experiments so far: Ratings Additional evidence for effects of perceptual fluency on affective judgments may come from physiological data which shows affective reactions to perceptual fluency.

15 © POSbase 2004 Perceptual Fluency and Affect: Physiological Evidence Zygomaticus Major

16 © POSbase 2004 Perceptual Fluency and Affect: Physiological Evidence Zeit (s) 4 s Judgment 6 s Dependent variables were judgment of liking and activity of the Zygomaticus Major (t2 - t1). Hypothesis: The longer the exposure duration, the more positive the judgment, and the higher the activity of the Zygomaticus Major. t1: 3 st2: 2 s EMG-Measurement Picture

17 © POSbase 2004 Perceptual Fluency and Affect: Physiological Evidence (Winkielman & Cacioppo, 2001) Liking judgment Activity of Zygomaticus

18 © POSbase 2004 A Perceptual Fluency Theory of Beauty The proposed theory is based on four basic assumptions: (1)Objects differ in the fluency with which they can be processed; (2)Processing fluency is itself hedonically marked; (3)Processing fluency feeds into judgments of aesthetic appreciation; (4)The impact of fluency is moderated by expectations and attribution.

19 © POSbase 2004 A Perceptual Fluency Theory of Beauty (3) Processing fluency feeds into judgments of aesthetic appreciation because people draw on their subjective experience in making evaluative judgments, unless the informational value of the experience is called into question.

20 © POSbase 2004 A Perceptual Fluency Theory of Beauty (4) The impact of fluency is moderated by expectations and attribution. On one hand, fluency has a particularly strong impact on affective experience if its source is unknown and fluent processing comes as a surprise, in line with findings by Whittlesea & Williams (1998). On the other hand, the fluency-based affective experience is discounted as a source of relevant information when the perceiver attributes the experience to an irrelevant source (Van den Bergh & Vrana, 1998).

21 © POSbase 2004 A Perceptual Fluency Theory of Beauty Phenomena that a perceptual fluency framework of affective preference can explain better: Preferences for prototypical and for extreme forms. The contradiction between inborn preferences and acquired preferences is resolved (Sollberger & Reber, in preparation). Parallel effects of familiarity on affective preferences (Reber et al. 1998) and on judgments of truth (McGlone & Tofighbakhsh, 2000; Reber & Schwarz, 1999).

22 © POSbase 2004 Grammar used by Buchner (1994) Grammatical: TSSXXVPS Ungrammatical: TSPXVVPS

23 © POSbase 2004 Grammar Used In Our Experiments b c# b f# b Example grammatical melody c b c# c# c c c Example ungrammatical melody c1 c f# c1 f# f# c Example random melody c c# b c b c1 b

24 © POSbase 2004 Participants were exposed to 20 grammatical melodies with the instruction to memorize them. A control group heard random melodies. Then, they heard 40 melodies consisting of 7 tones: - 20 grammatical new - 20 ungrammatical Participants had to provide two judgments: - Grammaticality - Liking Method

25 © POSbase 2004 The Acquisition of Musical Taste: Grammaticality Grammaticality Sollberger & Reber (in prep.)

26 © POSbase 2004 The Acquisition of Musical Taste: Liking Liking Sollberger & Reber (in prep.)

27 © POSbase 2004 Preference for certain musical structures can be learned through exposure to this structure. It is not necessary that melodies are exactly the same. They must just obey the same underlying rules. The Acquisition of Musical Taste: Conclusion

28 © POSbase 2004 A Perceptual Fluency Theory of Beauty Phenomena that a perceptual fluency framework of affective preference can explain better: Preferences for prototypical and for extreme forms. The contradiction between inborn preferences and acquired preferences is resolved (Sollberger & Reber, in preparation). Parallel effects of familiarity on affective preferences (Reber et al. 1998) and on judgments of truth (McGlone & Tofighbakhsh, 2000; Reber & Schwarz, 1999).

29 © POSbase 2004 Perceptual Fluency and Judged Truth The study of Reber and Schwarz (1999): Repeated statements are judged as being more truthful than new statements (e.g., Brown & Nix, 1996; Hasher et al., 1977). Some of these findings have been interpreted as an attribution of processing fluency to judged truth.processing fluency Reber and Schwarz tested this assumption directly: They presented 32 statements (e.g., Osorno is in Chile) one by one in different contrast to the background, making them well or moderately well readable.

30 © POSbase 2004 If perceptual fluency is misattributed to judged truth, an effect of contrast is predicted: Well readable statements are more likely to be judged as being true than moderately readable statements.perceptual fluency Osorno is in Chile Perceptual Fluency and Judged Truth

31 © POSbase 2004 Osorno is in Chile Perceptual Fluency and Judged Truth

32 © POSbase 2004 Conceptual Fluency and Judged Accuracy of Aphorims The study supports the notion that perceptual fluency increases judged truth. However, there are other sources of experienced fluency that are more relevant in the context of judged truth of statements, such as conceptual manipulations. Mc Glone and Tofighbakhsh (2000) tested this assumption by manipulating rhyming of aphorisms as a measure of fluency.

33 © POSbase 2004 They presented four kinds of aphorisms: (1)Extant rhyming aphorisms e.g., Caution and measure will win you a treasure (2)Non-rhyming modifications of (1) e.g., Caution and measure will win you riches (3)Extant non-rhyming aphorisms Fools live poor to die rich (4)Non-rhyming modifications of (3) Fools live poor to die wealthy Conceptual Fluency and Judged Accuracy of Aphorims Judgment p <.05. n.s.

34 © POSbase 2004 Illusions of familiarity (Jacoby & Whitehouse, 1989; Whittlesea, 1993) Affective judgments (Lee & Labroo, 2004; Reber et al., 1998) Judgment of truth (Reber & Schwarz, 1999) Feeling of knowing (Werth & Strack, 2003) Judgments of time (Witherspoon & Allan, 1985) Judgments of size (Reber, Zimmermann, & Wurtz, 2004) The authors concluded that processing fluency influenced judged accuracy of aphorisms. These findings are in accodance with other findings on the role of processing fluency in judgemental tasks: Conceptual Fluency and Judged Accuracy of Aphorims

35 © POSbase 2004 We have now began a research project that examines the effect of percpetual fluency on emotionally positive or negative materials. Does high fluency of emotionally negative objects (e.g., guns) decrease or increase negative affect? Moreover, we examine the role of question focus in evaluating emotionally negative objects. Does focus on form decrease and focus on function increase negative affect when perceptual fluency increases? Future Directions

36 © POSbase 2004 Criticisms of Our Theory of Beauty It has absolutely nothing to do with beauty in art; maybe you should tell your story at business schools; This is Disney aesthetics; Psychologists cant tell what art should be; It has absolutely nothing to do with art.

37 © POSbase 2004 Criticisms of Our Theory of Beauty It has absolutely nothing to do with beauty in art; maybe you should tell your story at business schools. Yes, I tell that business schools; however, this criticism implies that beauty in advertisement and beauty in art are of different quality. There is not yet empirical evidence for two kinds of the experience of beauty.

38 © POSbase 2004 Criticisms of Our Theory of Beauty This is Disney aesthetics. One issue here may have to do with the opinion that beauty in art is in some kind superior to beauty in Disney products. Again, there is no evidence for different kinds of beauty. Another issue pertains to different aesthetic qualities: One is beauty, but there is also an aesthetic of the sublime, eroticism, cuteness or even disgust, dependent on what a picture arouses.

39 © POSbase 2004 Criticisms of Our Theory of Beauty Psychologists cant tell what art should be: This is right, our findings are descriptive, without normative conseqeunces. Unfortunetaly, some psychologist do not know that. For example, Colin Martindale, then president of the International Association of Empirical Aesthetics, in a Presidential Address on Bouguereau is back. He argued – based on empirical research on liking representational versus abstract modern art – that modern art will eventually be reduced to a footnote and that art history will be rewritten as the history of representational painting.

40 © POSbase 2004 Criticisms of Our Theory of Beauty Adolphe William Bouguereau (1825 – 1905).

41 © POSbase 2004 Criticisms of Our Theory of Beauty It has absolutely nothing to do with art: It is worth stressing that beauty can be a feature of art, but does not need to be. There are other aesthetic qualities, like the sublime. Good art can be ugly, and beautiful pictures may have no artistic merit.

42 © POSbase 2004 Can Psychology of Art Influence Art? Yes, if artists aim at some effect. If artists see it as they want to see it, they may easily overestimate that viewers see the same effect. Georg Baselitz in an interview with Henry Geldzahler: I have always seen my paintings as independent from meanings with regard to contents – and also independent from associations that could result from them. If one pursues the logical conclusion of that thought, then it follows that if one needs a tree, a person, or a cow in the picture, but without meaning, without contents, then one simply takes it and turns it upside down.

43 © POSbase 2004 Can Psychology of Art Influence Art? Georg Baselitz, born 1938

44 © POSbase 2004 Can Psychology of Art Influence Art?

45 © POSbase 2004


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