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Aesthetic Preference for Abstract Designs as a Function of Their Perceived Complexity

Fritzky, Ferdinand J.
Publication Year:
Report Number:
ETS Research Bulletin
Document Type:
Page Count:
Subject/Key Words:
Art Appreciation, Difficulty Level, Interrater Reliability, Visual Arts


This investigation focussed on two basic questions: (1) What relationship exists between aesthetic preference and the perceived complexity of a set of abstract designs? (2) To what extent do subjects agree or disagree with regard to the judgments in question? In light of some of the methodological ambiguities which were evident in reviewing earlier studies directed at similar problems, a new approach seemed to be called for. Accordingly, a shift in emphasis from the art objects to the individual observers was made, and a new set of stimulus materials was constructed especially to suit the purposes of the study. Whereas in earlier experiments the subject's aesthetic preferences were related to some external measure of complexity, the method here was to obtain both judgments from each subject. The study strongly supported the hypothesis that people can be classified basically into either of two groups, one which prefers complexity and one which dislikes complexity. The discussion centered upon two major issues: (a) the role of complexity as a general variable in aesthetic theory; (b) a consideration of how the individual differences which emerged in this study might be interpreted within the general context of perception, personality, and aesthetics. In addition, a number of suggestions were made regarding future research studies.

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