Roles of Physical and Perceived Complexity in Visual Aesthetics
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The aesthetic response is a multifaceted and subtle behavior that ranges in magnitude from sublime to mundane. Few studies have investigated the more subtle, weak aesthetic responses to mundane scenes. But all aesthetic responses rely upon sensory-perceptual processes, which serve as a crucial first step in contemporary models of the aesthetic response. As such, understanding the roles of perceptual processes in aesthetic responses to the mundane provides insights into all aesthetic responses. Variation in the physical properties of aesthetic objects must cause such responses, but to understand the relationship, such physical properties must be quantified. Then, the mechanism can be determined. Here, I present the theoretical basis and reason for interest in such a test of mundane aesthetic responses in Chapter I. In Chapter II, I present metrics that quantify the physical properties of natural scenes, using computer-generated images that model the complexity of natural scenes to validate these measurement techniques. The methods presented in Chapter II are adapted to analyze the physical properties of natural scenes in Chapter III, extending the analysis to photographs and clarifying the relationship between the properties fractal dimension and spectral scaling decay rate. A behavioral study is presented in Chapter IV that investigates the extent that perceptual responses about complexity serve as an intermediary between aesthetic ratings and the physical properties of the images described in Chapters II and III. Chapter V summarizes the results of these studies and explores future directions. This dissertation includes previously published and unpublished coauthored material.