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Durham e-Theses
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Affective responses to visual forms of varying complexity

Melhuish, Peter W. (1978) Affective responses to visual forms of varying complexity. Doctoral thesis, Durham University.



Experiments are reported which investigate several problems in the developmental study of aesthetics. The experiments contribute primarily to the area of research identified by Berlyne as the 'new experimental aesthetics', and they are conducted with basically a 'Fechnerian' approach. They extend and broaden previous research in that two different aesthetic responses (preference and duration of viewing time), and three aesthetic stimulus variables (complexity, colour and symmetry) are investigated. Chapter One deals with the dependent variables. Hutt's hypothesis that children's preferences are based upon attention value (measured by viewing time) is introduced, and the need to provide a more thorough test of the relationship between measures is demonstrated. Her prediction that younger children's preferences should show greater dependence upon attention value than older children's is discussed. Also introduced is the hypothesis that longer viewing times will be sustained by visual stimuli which include pleasing (preferred) properties. Chapter Two deals with the three independent variables, and reviews the research investigating their effects on preference and viewing time. A new topic of study to experimental aesthetics is introduced, affective salience, which investigates whether some aesthetic stimulus variables are more influential determinants of preference than others. Measurement of the relative affective salience of the three variables is discussed, and experiments are proposed. Chapters Three, Four and Five report the experimental work. In Chapter Three seventy-two 6 to 11 year olds viewed freely 40 asymmetrical polygons each, which varied in complexity (4 to 40 sides) and in colour. The same subjects later rank ordered for preference the polygons in sets of 10. Results showed that both the level of complexity and the presence of colour significantly affected viewing times for children of all ages. Polygonal complexity also affected preferences, and age differences were apparent with both measures. The two measures were shown to be positively but not closely related, thereby only partly confirming Hutt. Hutt's hypothesis about the effect of age received no support. Colour was shown to have significant affective salience in that it effectively competed with complexity as a determinant of preference. The two experiments in Chapter Four were similarly designed, but included the third variable, symmetry. Sixty subjects viewed 40 polygons each and later evaluated them for preference. Again, complexity and colour affected viewing times, but symmetry had no effect. The effect of complexity on preferences was also confirmed for symmetrical stimuli. Symmetry was highly preferred to asymmetry. The relationship between response measures was confirmed, but the effect of age on that relationship predicted by Hutt was again not supported. Symmetry, like colour was also shown to be affectively salient relative to complexity, and statistical analysis suggested that it had greater hedonic impact than colour. The experiment in Chapter Five was designed to determine whether colour or symmetry was more affectively salient. Sixty subjects rank ordered sets of polygons designed to produce competition between the two variables. It was convincingly demonstrated that the salience of symmetry outweighed that of colour. Each experimental chapter includes a discussion of results, and a, summary chapter is included at the end.

Item Type:Thesis (Doctoral)
Award:Doctor of Philosophy
Thesis Date:1978
Copyright:Copyright of this thesis is held by the author
Deposited On:18 Sep 2013 16:03

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