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      Implicit and Explicit Evaluation of Visual Symmetry as a Function of Art Expertise

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          In perception, humans typically prefer symmetrical over asymmetrical patterns. Yet, little is known about differences in symmetry preferences depending on individuals’ different past histories of actively reflecting upon pictures and patterns. To address this question, we tested the generality of the symmetry preference for different levels of individual art expertise. The preference for symmetrical versus asymmetrical abstract patterns was measured implicitly, by an Implicit Association Test (IAT), and explicitly, by a rating scale asking participants to evaluate pattern beauty. Participants were art history and psychology students. Art expertise was measured using a questionnaire. In the IAT, art expertise did not alter the preference for symmetrical over asymmetrical patterns. In contrast, the explicit rating scale showed that with higher art expertise, the ratings for the beauty of asymmetrical patterns significantly increased, but, again, participants preferred symmetrical over asymmetrical patterns. The results are discussed in light of different theories on the origins of symmetry preference. Evolutionary adaptation might play a role in symmetry preferences for art experts similarly to nonexperts, but experts tend to emphasize the beauty of asymmetrical depictions, eventually considering different criteria, when asked explicitly to indicate their preferences.

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          Most cited references 51

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          Measuring individual differences in implicit cognition: the implicit association test.

          An implicit association test (IAT) measures differential association of 2 target concepts with an attribute. The 2 concepts appear in a 2-choice task (2-choice task (e.g., flower vs. insect names), and the attribute in a 2nd task (e.g., pleasant vs. unpleasant words for an evaluation attribute). When instructions oblige highly associated categories (e.g., flower + pleasant) to share a response key, performance is faster than when less associated categories (e.g., insect & pleasant) share a key. This performance difference implicitly measures differential association of the 2 concepts with the attribute. In 3 experiments, the IAT was sensitive to (a) near-universal evaluative differences (e.g., flower vs. insect), (b) expected individual differences in evaluative associations (Japanese + pleasant vs. Korean + pleasant for Japanese vs. Korean subjects), and (c) consciously disavowed evaluative differences (Black + pleasant vs. White + pleasant for self-described unprejudiced White subjects).
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            Processing fluency and aesthetic pleasure: is beauty in the perceiver's processing experience?

            We propose that aesthetic pleasure is a function of the perceiver's processing dynamics: The more fluently perceivers can process an object, the more positive their aesthetic response. We review variables known to influence aesthetic judgments, such as figural goodness, figure-ground contrast, stimulus repetition, symmetry, and prototypicality, and trace their effects to changes in processing fluency. Other variables that influence processing fluency, like visual or semantic priming, similarly increase judgments of aesthetic pleasure. Our proposal provides an integrative framework for the study of aesthetic pleasure and sheds light on the interplay between early preferences versus cultural influences on taste, preferences for both prototypical and abstracted forms, and the relation between beauty and truth. In contrast to theories that trace aesthetic pleasure to objective stimulus features per se, we propose that beauty is grounded in the processing experiences of the perceiver, which are in part a function of stimulus properties.
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              Effect Displays inRfor Generalised Linear Models


                Author and article information

                SAGE Publications (Sage UK: London, England )
                08 March 2018
                Mar-Apr 2018
                : 9
                : 2
                Faculty of Psychology, University of Vienna, Austria
                Author notes
                Hanna Weichselbaum, Liebiggasse 5, 1010 Vienna, Austria. Email: hanna.weichselbaum@
                © The Author(s) 2018

                Creative Commons CC-BY: This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License ( which permits any use, reproduction and distribution of the work without further permission provided the original work is attributed as specified on the SAGE and Open Access pages (

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                March-April 2018


                art experts, art history, implicit association test, explicit rating scale, symmetry


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