The interplay of objective and subjective factors in empirical aesthetics

Chamberlain, Rebecca. 2022. The interplay of objective and subjective factors in empirical aesthetics. In: Bogdan Ionescu; Wilma A. Bainbridge and Naila Murray, eds. Human Perception of Visual Information: Psychological and Computational Perspectives. Cham, Switzerland: Springer, pp. 115-132. ISBN 9783030814649 [Book Section]

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Abstract or Description

The field of empirical aesthetics sets out to understand and predict our aesthetic preferences (Palmer et al., Annual Review of Psychology 64(1):77–107, 2013). Its history dates back to the birth of visual psychophysics and the work of Gustav Fechner (Vorschule der aesthetik (Vol. 1). Brietkopf & Härtel, 1876), while multiple models of aesthetic experience have been proposed in the intervening years (Chatterjee A, Vartanian O, Trends in Cognitive Sciences 18(7):370–375, 2014; Leder H et al., British Journal of Psychology 95(4):489–508, 2004; Pelowski M et al., Physics of Life Reviews 21:80–125, 2017). This chapter briefly sets out the history of empirical aesthetics, and the state of the research field at present. I outline recent work on inter-observer agreement in aesthetic preference, before presenting empirical work that argues the importance of first objective (characteristics of stimuli) and then subjective (characteristics of context) factors in shaping aesthetic preference. Considering the role of properties of the stimulus, I will review literature on the relationship between aesthetic preference and symmetry, shape, compositional structure, colour and complexity as well as considering the potential role of statistical properties of images. I will then review putative subjective predictors of aesthetic preference including the role of context, framing and the influence of information about the artist and the artistic process. Both subjective and objective approaches will be evaluated from an individual differences perspective, focusing on the mediating role of familiarity, expertise, culture, cognitive ability and personality. Finally, I will attempt to draw these approaches together with reference to aesthetic sensitivity: an individual observer’s propensity to have an aesthetic response to a particular objective image characteristic, and will explore some putative factors that may modulate and explain individual differences in aesthetic sensitivity.

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6 December 2021Accepted
1 January 2022Published

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07 Dec 2021 09:48

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14 Feb 2022 16:57


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