Eline Van Geert (KU Leuven) Gastvortrag
Eline is a final-year doctoral student at the Laboratory of Experimental Psychology at KU Leuven, Belgium, under supervision of Prof. Johan Wagemans, and supported by a PhD fellowship of the Research Foundation - Flanders (FWO). After graduating from the Master of Psychology: Theory and Research program at KU Leuven in July 2017, she started her PhD research on the concept of Prägnanz (i.e., simplicity of overall organization) in visual perception and the question of why we perceptually organize the visual input we receive in the way we do. She aims to conduct her research in an open and reproducible way, and her research interests include visual aesthetics, perceptual organization, individual differences in perception, Bayesian statistics, and many more.
Title and short abstract of the talk
Why do things look as they do, and do you like how things look? How input, person, and context interact to perceptually clarify and aesthetically evaluate the incoming visual information
Things look as they do not only because of the visual input an individual receives, but also because of the way in which the viewer processes this input in a certain context. The law of Prägnanz states that psychological organization will always be as ‘good’ as possible given the prevailing circumstances. What does it mean for a psychological organization to be ‘good’, however, and how do viewers increase the ‘goodness’ or clarity of their percepts?
The best overall organization will be that structure that conveys its essence in the most pure and compelling way. Whereas unnecessary details can be removed, important characteristics are emphasized. As we can conclude from our research, however, which characteristics will be simplified or complicated will partially depend on the context in which the stimulus is presented.
To achieve the best or clearest overall organization possible, human perceivers use their pre-existing reference points to clarify the visual input. If no pre-existing reference points are available, the immediate context can be used to disambiguate the incoming visual information. In a Registered Report using multistable dot lattices as stimuli, we confirmed differences in how individuals combine previous input and experience with current input in their perception, as well as stability of these individual differences over time.
Order and complexity are not only important aspects of Prägnanz, they also contribute to our assessments of aesthetic appreciation. To improve reproducibility of research on the relation between order, complexity, and aesthetic appreciation in the visual modality, we developed the Order & Complexity Toolbox for Aesthetics (OCTA), a Python package and online application focused on creating multi-element displays varying on different order and complexity dimensions (e.g., shape, color, size of elements). Some first empirical studies using OCTA stimuli teach us that whereas order is almost never disfavored, the appreciation of complexity is more context-dependent.
In sum, to perceptually clarify and aesthetically evaluate the incoming visual information, tendencies are at work that are both antagonistic and complementary: although they tend to decrease each other’s influence, they also work together towards a better psycho-physical organization. What the optimal balance of both tendencies entails exactly will depend on the individual in question, the input the individual receives, as well as the context in which the individual receives the input.