Learning to like it: aesthetic perception of bodies, movements and choreographic structure

Orgs, Guido; Hagura, Nobuhiro and Haggard, Patrick. 2013. Learning to like it: aesthetic perception of bodies, movements and choreographic structure. Consciousness and Cognition, 22(2), pp. 603-12. ISSN 1053-8100 [Article]

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Abstract or Description

Appreciating human movement can be a powerful aesthetic experience. We have used apparent biological motion to investigate the aesthetic effects of three levels of movement representation: body postures, movement transitions and choreographic structure. Symmetrical (ABCDCBA) and asymmetrical (ABCDBCA) sequences of apparent movement were created from static postures, and were presented in an artificial grammar learning paradigm. Additionally, "good" continuation of apparent movements was manipulated by changing the number of movement path reversals within a sequence. In an initial exposure phase, one group of participants saw only symmetrical sequences, while another group saw only asymmetrical sequences. In a subsequent test phase, both groups rated all sequences on an aesthetic evaluation scale. We found that posture, movement, and choreographic structure all influenced aesthetic ratings. Separate ratings for the static body postures presented individually showed that both groups preferred a posture that maximized spatial symmetry. Ratings for the experimental sequences showed that both groups gave higher ratings to symmetrical sequences with "good" continuation and lower ratings to sequences with many path reversals. Further, participants who had been initially familiarized with asymmetrical sequences showed increased liking for asymmetrical sequences, suggesting a structural mere exposure effect. Aesthetic preferences thus depend on body postures, apparent movement continuation and choreographic structure. We propose a hierarchical model of aesthetic perception of human movement with distinct processing levels for body postures, movements and choreographic structure.

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This study was supported by a Leverhulme Trust research grant to P. Haggard. G. Orgs was supported by a research fellowship of the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD). N. Hagura was supported by a Marie Curie International Incoming Fellowship. P. Haggard was additionally supported by a Leverhulme Trust Major Research Fellowship. The authors would like to thank David Nobbs for help with data collection, Beatriz Calvo-Merino for helpful comments on the manuscript and dance company NEUER TANZ for their support during creation of the stimulus material. Additional support was provided by the Volkswagen Foundation.


Aesthetics; Apparent biological motion; Artificial grammar learning; Visual body perception; Dance; Structural mere exposure

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June 2013Published

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03 Jun 2016 12:30

Last Modified:

04 Jul 2017 10:24

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Yes, this version has been peer-reviewed.



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