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The sound of beauty: How complexity determines aesthetic preference

(2019) Acta Psychologica. 192. p.146-152
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Abstract
Stimulus complexity is an important determinant of aesthetic preference. An influential idea is that increases instimulus complexity lead to increased preference up to an optimal point after which preference decreases (in-verted-U pattern). However, whereas some studies indeed observed this pattern, most studies instead showed anincreased preference for more complexity. One complicating issue is that it remains unclear how to definecomplexity. To address this, we approached complexity and its relation to aesthetic preference from a predictivecoding perspective. Here, low- and high-complexity stimuli would correspond to low and high levels of pre-diction errors, respectively. We expected participants to prefer stimuli which are neither too easy to predict (lowprediction error), nor too difficult (high prediction error). To test this, we presented two sequences of tones oneach trial that varied in predictability from highly regular (low prediction error) to completely random (highprediction error), and participants had to indicate which of the two sequences they preferred in a two-intervalforced-choice task. The complexity of each tone sequence (amount of prediction error) was estimated usingentropy. Results showed that participants tended to choose stimuli with intermediate complexity over those ofhigh or low complexity. This confirms the century-old idea that stimulus complexity has an inverted-U re-lationship to aesthetic preference.
Keywords
Experimental and Cognitive Psychology

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Chicago
Delplanque, Jeroen, Esther De Loof, Clio Janssens, and Tom Verguts. 2019. “The Sound of Beauty: How Complexity Determines Aesthetic Preference.” Acta Psychologica 192: 146–152.
APA
Delplanque, J., De Loof, E., Janssens, C., & Verguts, T. (2019). The sound of beauty: How complexity determines aesthetic preference. Acta Psychologica, 192, 146–152.
Vancouver
1.
Delplanque J, De Loof E, Janssens C, Verguts T. The sound of beauty: How complexity determines aesthetic preference. Acta Psychologica. Elsevier BV; 2019;192:146–52.
MLA
Delplanque, Jeroen, Esther De Loof, Clio Janssens, et al. “The Sound of Beauty: How Complexity Determines Aesthetic Preference.” Acta Psychologica 192 (2019): 146–152. Print.
@article{8588050,
  abstract     = {Stimulus complexity is an important determinant of aesthetic preference. An influential idea is that increases instimulus complexity lead to increased preference up to an optimal point after which preference decreases (in-verted-U pattern). However, whereas some studies indeed observed this pattern, most studies instead showed anincreased preference for more complexity. One complicating issue is that it remains unclear how to definecomplexity. To address this, we approached complexity and its relation to aesthetic preference from a predictivecoding perspective. Here, low- and high-complexity stimuli would correspond to low and high levels of pre-diction errors, respectively. We expected participants to prefer stimuli which are neither too easy to predict (lowprediction error), nor too difficult (high prediction error). To test this, we presented two sequences of tones oneach trial that varied in predictability from highly regular (low prediction error) to completely random (highprediction error), and participants had to indicate which of the two sequences they preferred in a two-intervalforced-choice task. The complexity of each tone sequence (amount of prediction error) was estimated usingentropy. Results showed that participants tended to choose stimuli with intermediate complexity over those ofhigh or low complexity. This confirms the century-old idea that stimulus complexity has an inverted-U re-lationship to aesthetic preference.},
  author       = {Delplanque, Jeroen and De Loof, Esther and Janssens, Clio and Verguts, Tom},
  issn         = {0001-6918},
  journal      = {Acta Psychologica},
  keyword      = {Experimental and Cognitive Psychology},
  language     = {eng},
  pages        = {146--152},
  publisher    = {Elsevier BV},
  title        = {The sound of beauty: How complexity determines aesthetic preference},
  url          = {http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.actpsy.2018.11.011},
  volume       = {192},
  year         = {2019},
}

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