Individual differences in aesthetic judgments of symmetry

Andreas Gartus, Helene Plasser, Helmut Leder

It is well known that for abstract graphic patterns, symmetry is an important predictor of aesthetic judgments. However, it is also known that this is true only on average, and that there are substantial individual differences.
We investigated individual differences of preference for symmetry in two experiments: In an online study, 80 participants rated 250 abstract black-and-white patterns differing in symmetry and complexity for liking. In addition, participants completed the 16-NCCS questionnaire measuring individual need for cognitive closure. The second experiment was conducted in the lab and 108 participants rated the same stimuli and filled out the same questionnaires as in the first experiment.
For each stimulus pattern, a score of mirror symmetry ranging from 0 to 100 was calculated. In both experiments, we found a significant interaction between the individual need for cognitive closure and the mirror symmetry scores of the stimuli: While on average, participants preferred symmetric over less symmetric stimuli, the higher the NCCS score was, the higher was also the preference of symmetry. This is in line with theory, since a high need for cognitive closure is associated with increased preference for order and structure.
While a relation between need for cognitive closure and preference for figurative over abstract art was shown recently, here, we found evidence that need for cognitive closure also increases preference of symmetry. Therefore, the results of our research further support the relevance of need for cognitive closure for predicting individual differences in aesthetic preferences.

Department of Cognition, Emotion, and Methods in Psychology
Publication date
Peer reviewed
Austrian Fields of Science 2012
501001 General psychology, 501011 Cognitive psychology, 501004 Differential psychology, 501026 Psychology of perception
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