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Symmetry 2011, 3(3), 443-456; doi:10.3390/sym3030443

Reduction of Image Complexity Explains Aesthetic Preference for Symmetry

Department of Psychology, National Taiwan University, Taipei 10617, Taiwan
Neurobiology and Cognitive Science Center, National Taiwan University, Taipei 10617, Taiwan
Taipei First Girls’ High School, Taipei 10045, Taiwan
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Received: 11 April 2011 / Revised: 2 June 2011 / Accepted: 29 June 2011 / Published: 11 July 2011
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Symmetry Processing in Perception and Art)
Download PDF [228 KB, uploaded 11 July 2011]


Symmetric patterns are more appealing to human observers than asymmetric ones. Here, we investigate the visual information processing mechanisms underlying this aesthetic preference. All stimuli were derived from phase scrambled versions of forty face or nature images. In addition to the scrambled images, there were four other types of test image: symmetric, in which one part of the image was a reflection of another around an axis; repetitive, in which one part of the image was a copy of the other; anti-symmetric, similar to symmetric but with the contrast of one side reversed; and interleaved patterns, in which half of the symmetric pattern was replaced by a scrambled image. The number of axes ranged from 1 to 16 for all image types. The task of our 20 observers was to give a preference rating to each image on a 6-point Lickert scale. The preference rating increased with the number of axes for all stimulus types. The observers showed a similar preference for symmetric and repetitive patterns and slightly less preference for anti-symmetric patterns. The preference for interleaved patterns was much less than for other types of stimuli. Preference for an image cannot be explained by either the ecological significance of its content or the slope of its amplitude spectrum. Instead, preference can be accounted for by the complexity of the image.
Keywords: aesthetics; form perception; rating; scaling; Fourier spectrum aesthetics; form perception; rating; scaling; Fourier spectrum
This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY 3.0).

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MDPI and ACS Style

Chen, C.-C.; Wu, J.-H.; Wu, C.-C. Reduction of Image Complexity Explains Aesthetic Preference for Symmetry. Symmetry 2011, 3, 443-456.

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