Do I really feel it? The contributions of subjective fluency and compatibility in low-level effects on aesthetic appreciation

Michael Forster, Wolfgang Fabi, Helmut Leder

The causes for the liking of objects are multifaceted. According to the processing fluency account, the ease with which an object is processed leads to a subjective feeling of fluency. This subjective feeling is then interpreted as a positive reaction toward the object resulting higher liking. However, evidence regarding the processes underlying this relation is scarce. To show that the subjective feeling can indeed be responsible for liking, we experimentally manipulated processing ease by providing false physiological feedback (varying skin conductance indicated varying feelings of fluency) and by varying presentation times between 100 and 400 ms while participants viewed line drawings of objects and rated them for liking. A first experiment showed that both false physiological feedback and presentation duration influenced liking. Stimuli primed with a (fake) visualization of a physiological correlate of high ease of processing were liked more than stimuli primed with a low ease of processing. Liking ratings in a no-feedback condition fell between the high and low feedback conditions. To explore possible compatibility effects of coupling visual feedback to the fluency interpretation, in a second experiment we reversed the feedback interpretation-visualization of high skin conductance now indicated low ease of processing. The results show a similar pattern, though the effect was subtler. This indicates that when the coupling of feedback to fluency is less apparent or less compatible, the feeling is less strongly linked to liking. Our results support the claim that variations in the feeling of fluency affect the appreciation of objects in terms of liking. Together, the experiments suggest the contributions of processing ease as well as compatibility to the experience of liking.

Department of Cognition, Emotion, and Methods in Psychology
External organisation(s)
Universität Wien
Frontiers in Human Neuroscience
No. of pages
Publication date
Peer reviewed
Austrian Fields of Science 2012
501001 General psychology, 501021 Social psychology, 501006 Experimental psychology, 501011 Cognitive psychology
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