Stephen E Palmer

Stephen E Palmer
University of California, Berkeley | UCB · Department of Psychology

Ph.D. Psychology

About

163
Publications
90,065
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11,837
Citations
Additional affiliations
January 2011 - present
Katholieke Universiteit Leuven
January 2010 - present
University College London
January 2010 - present
University of California, Los Angeles

Publications

Publications (163)
Data
Supplemental Data1 - Supplemental material for Color, Music, and Emotion: Bach to the Blues
Article
Full-text available
When people make cross-modal matches from classical music to colors, they choose colors whose emotional associations fit the emotional associations of the music, supporting the emotional mediation hypothesis. We further explored this result with a large, diverse sample of 34 musical excerpts from different genres, including Blues, Salsa, Heavy meta...
Article
Palmer, Gardner, and Wickens studied aesthetic preferences for pictures of single objects and found a strong inward bias: Right-facing objects were preferred left-of-center and left-facing objects right-of-center. They found no effect of object motion (people and cars showed the same inward bias as chairs and teapots), but the objects were not depi...
Article
There are well-known and extensive differences in color preferences between individuals, but there are also within-individual differences from one time to another. Despite the seeming independence between these individual and temporal effects, we propose that they have the same underlying cause: people's ecological experiences with color-associated...
Article
We investigated how color preferences vary according to season and whether those changes could be explained by the ecological valence theory (EVT). To do so, we assessed the same participants' preferences for the same colors during fall, winter, spring, and summer in the northeastern United States, where there are large seasonal changes in environm...
Conference Paper
We present results from three research projects that illuminate individual differences (IDs) in perceptual preferences. First, we demonstrate that IDs in single-color preferences can be partly explained by ecological preferences for color-associated objects and institutions (e.g., people who like spinach tend to like darkgreen more than those who d...
Article
How do odor preferences arise? Following Palmer and Schloss's (2010, PNAS, 107, 8877-8882) ecological valence theory of color preferences, we propose that preference for an odor is determined by preferences for all objects and/or entities associated with that odor. The present results showed that preferences for familiar odors were strongly predict...
Poster
Previous research shows that music-to-color associations are mediated by emotion (Palmer et al., 2013), even for low-level musical stimuli, including two-note intervals and instrumental timbres (Griscom & Palmer, VSS-2012). To test the generality of such emotional effects beyond music and color, we first examined crossmodal relationships between na...
Article
Full-text available
We investigated cultural differences between U.S. and Japanese color preferences and the ecological factors that might influence them. Japanese and U.S. color preferences have both similarities (e.g., peaks around blue, troughs around dark-yellow, and preferences for saturated colors) and differences (Japanese participants like darker colors less t...
Article
How can the large, systematic differences that exist between individuals' color preferences be explained? The ecological valence theory (Palmer & Schloss, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 107:8877-8882, 2010) posits that an individual's preference for each particular color is determined largely by his or her preferences for all corre...
Poster
Previous research indicates that systematic music-to-color cross-modal associations in non-synesthetes are mediated by emotion (e.g., Palmer et al., 2013; Langlois et al., under review; Whiteford et al., VSS-2013). The present research asks whether specific musical features mediate cross-modal associations from music-to-texture by using single-line...
Poster
Previous work has revealed that non-synesthetes exhibit cross-modal music-to-color associations that appear to be mediated by emotion: e.g., people chose happy-looking colors as going best with happy-sounding music and angry-looking colors as going best with angry-sounding music (Palmer et al., 2013). A series of further studies revealed that music...
Article
Prior research has shown that non-synesthetes’ color associations to classical orchestral music are strongly mediated by emotion. The present study examines similar cross-modal music-to-color associations for much better controlled musical stimuli: 64 single-line piano melodies that were generated from four basic melodies by Mozart, whose global mu...
Article
Full-text available
In typical figure-ground displays the figure has shape and is perceived as being in front, whereas the ground is shapeless and recedes to the back. The recent literature on the visual perception of holes has questioned the nature of this coupling between shape and depth both theoretically and empirically. In this paper we provide a theoretical fram...
Article
Full-text available
A new illusion, called the configural shape illusion (CSI), is described in which the apparent shape of an object (the ‘‘target’’) is systematically distorted by the presence of an adjacent shape (the ‘‘inducer’’) that is distinct from, but perceptually grouped with, the target. The target is selectively elongated in a direction consistent with the...
Conference Paper
Background / Purpose: 15 timbre-colour synesthetes reported their colour experiences induced by a wide variety of musical intervals and timbres. 15 matched controls reported their colour associations to the same auditory stimuli in a similar way. Although synesthetes’ interval-colour and timbre-colour mappings are highly variable across individua...
Conference Paper
Background / Purpose: The “rule of thirds” (ROT) posits that the best positions for the focal object within a rectangular frame lie along the vertical and horizontal lines that divide the frame into thirds, with maxima at the four intersections of these third-lines and that the worst positions lie along the vertical and horizontal axes of symmetr...
Poster
Background / Purpose: Previous research has provided evidence that cross-modal music-to-color associations are mediated by emotion, both for classical orchestral music and for a wide range of genres, from heavy-metal to Hindustani-sitar. Similar results suggesting emotional mediation have been found using lower-level musical stimuli, including mu...
Poster
Previous research indicates that cross-modal music-to-color associations are systematic in non-synesthetes and are mediated by emotion (e.g., Palmer et al., 2013; Langlois, VSS-2013; Whiteford et al., VSS-2013). The present research asks whether similarly systematic associations are evident from music to line-based geometric visual textures in non-...
Article
The present study reveals that Election Day differentially affects the color preferences of US Republicans and Democrats. Voters' preferences for Republican red and Democratic blue were assessed, along with several distractor colors, on and around the 2010 interim and 2012 presidential elections. On non-Election Days, Republicans and Democrats pref...
Article
Previous research has shown that the structure of a rectangular frame strongly influences perceived goodness-of-fit for a small circular probe positioned within it (Palmer and Guidi, 2011). The center is consistently rated as the best position, followed by positions along the global vertical, global horizontal, and local diagonal symmetry axes. Her...
Poster
Previous research on cross-modal music-to-color associations for classical orchestral music revealed systematic mappings in non-synesthetes (Palmer, Schloss, Xu, & Prado-León, under review). There was also strong evidence that emotion mediates these associations, (e.g., happy colors went with happy music). We investigated whether timbre-color synes...
Poster
When participants are asked to make associations from classical orchestral music to colors, they choose colors that fit the emotional content of the music: e.g., "happy" colors go with "happy" music and "angry" colors with "angry" music (Palmer, Schloss, Xu & Prado-Leon, in review). Such findings support an emotional mediation hypothesis: cross-mod...
Poster
Cross-modal music-to-color associations were investigated in non-synesthetes and music-color synesthetes using 18 selections of orchestral music by Bach, Mozart, and Brahms. Six brief selections were chosen by each composer that varied in tempo (slow/medium/fast) and mode (major/minor). Non-synesthetes chose the 3 colors (from 37) that "went best/w...
Article
Experimental evidence demonstrates robust cross-modal matches between music and colors that are mediated by emotional associations. US and Mexican participants chose colors that were most/least consistent with 18 selections of classical orchestral music by Bach, Mozart, and Brahms. In both cultures, faster music in the major mode produced color cho...
Article
Full-text available
How are color preferences formed, and can they be changed by affective experiences with correspondingly colored objects? We examined these questions by testing whether affectively polarized experiences with images of colored objects would cause changes in color preferences. Such changes are implied by the ecological valence theory (EVT), which posi...
Article
Full-text available
Prior research examining how negative feelings influence aesthetic preferences (e.g., liking of different kinds of music, movies, or stories) has reported inconsistent findings. This article proposes a theoretical argument to explain when people are more likely to prefer mood-congruent to mood-incongruent aesthetic stimuli. It is suggested that moo...
Article
Full-text available
Adults commonly prefer blues most and greenish yellows least, but these hue preferences interact with lightness and saturation (e.g., dark yellow is particularly disliked: Palmer & Schloss (Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 107:8877-8882, 2010)). Here, we tested for a similar hue-by-lightness interaction in infant looking preferences,...
Article
Although empirical research on aesthetics has had some success in explaining the average preferences of groups of observers, relatively little is known about individual differences in preference, and especially about how such differences might covary across different domains. In this study, we identified a new factor underlying aesthetic response-p...
Article
Full-text available
Human aesthetic preference in the visual domain is reviewed from definitional, methodological, empirical, and theoretical perspectives. Aesthetic science is distinguished from the perception of art and from philosophical treatments of aesthetics. The strengths and weaknesses of important behavioral techniques are presented and discussed, including...
Article
In this article, we investigate how context influences color preferences by comparing preferences for “contextless” colored squares with preferences for colors of a variety of objects (e.g., walls, couches, and T‐shirts). In experiment 1, we find that hue preferences for contextless squares generalize relatively well to hue preferences for imagined...
Article
Palmer, Gardner, and Wickens (2008) found an "inward bias" in aesthetic preferences for the position of a single object inside a frame that depended on its facing direction: right-facing objects were preferred left of center and left-facing objects were preferred right of center. They hypothesized that participants would also prefer objects that ch...
Article
Full-text available
In 1912, Max Wertheimer published his paper on phi motion, widely recognized as the start of Gestalt psychology. Because of its continued relevance in modern psychology, this centennial anniversary is an excellent opportunity to take stock of what Gestalt psychology has offered and how it has changed since its inception. We first introduce the key...
Conference Paper
Background / Purpose: The purpose of this study was to test the ecological valence theory of color preference. Our aims were to understand environmental influences, including seasonal variation. Main conclusion: Our results suggest that seasons affect color preference, and that there are also gender differences in regards to color preference.
Article
Full-text available
Two experiments demonstrate that grouping can be strongly influenced by the presence of figures defined by illusory contours. Rectangular arrays were constructed in which a central column of figures could group either with those on one side, on the basis of perception of figures defined by illusory contours, or with those on the other side, on the...
Article
Aesthetic preference for the vertical composition of single-object pictures was studied through a series of two-alternative forced-choice experiments. The results reveal the influence of several factors, including spatial asymmetries in the functional properties of the object and the typical position of the object relative to the observer. With asy...
Article
Full-text available
Five experiments examined preferences for horizontal positions in multiobject pictures. In Experiment 1, each picture contained a fixed object and an object whose position could be adjusted to create the most (or least) aesthetically pleasing image. Observers placed the movable object closer to the fixed object when the objects were related than wh...
Article
Previous research on aesthetic preference for spatial compositions has shown robust, systematic preferences for object locations within frames and for object perspectives. In the present experiment, we show that these preferences can be dramatically altered by changing the contextual meaning of an image through pairing it with different titles, as...
Article
What do we do when we view a work of art? What does it mean to have an "aesthetic" experience? Are such experiences purely in the eye (and brain) of the beholder? Such questions have entertained philosophers for millennia and psychologists for over a century. More recently, with the advent of functional neuroimaging methods, a handful of ambitious...
Conference Paper
Full-text available
This paper describes a computerized aesthetic composition task that is based on a "creativity as search" metaphor. The technique collects detailed, moment-to-moment data about people's search behavior, which can help open the "black box" that separates independent variables that influence creativity from their outcomes. We first describe the techni...
Poster
Arnheim (1986) speculated that different aesthetic domains (e.g., color and music) might be related to each other through common emotional associations. We investigated this hypothesis by having participants pick from among an array of 37 colors the five colors that went best (and later the five that went worst) with each of a set of musical select...
Article
Previous research has shown that individuals differ in the degree to which they prefer harmonious color combinations, as measured by the correlation between ratings of preference and ratings of harmony for figure-ground color pairs (Schloss & Palmer, VSS-2007), Further research shows that this tendency is also correlated with preference for harmony...
Article
Full-text available
The ecological valence theory (EVT) posits that preference for a color is determined by people's average affective response to everything associated with it (Palmer & Schloss, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 107, 8877-8882, 2010). The EVT thus implies the existence of sociocultural effects: Color preference should increase with pos...
Article
Full-text available
Previous studies of preference for and harmony of color combinations have produced confusing results. For example, some claim that harmony increases with hue similarity, whereas others claim that it decreases. We argue that such confusions are resolved by distinguishing among three types of judgments about color pairs: (1) preference for the pair a...
Article
Full-text available
Three experiments were carried out to investigate the internal structure of a rectangular frame to test Arnheim's (1974 Art and Visual Perception, 1988 The Power of the Center) proposals about its 'structural skeleton'. Observers made subjective ratings of how well a small probe circle fit within a rectangle at different interior positions. In expe...
Chapter
Why do people like some colors more than others? Why do they have color preferences at all? Recent results from the Berkeley Color Project (BCP) provide intriguing answers based on people's emotional responses to diagnostically colored objects. We report preferences among 32 chromatic colors from 48 adults in the San Francisco Bay area and describe...
Article
Full-text available
Konkle and Oliva (in press, Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance) found that the preferred ('canonical') visual size of a picture of an object within a frame is proportional to the logarithm of its known physical size. They used within-participants designs on several tasks, including having participants adjust the ob...
Article
We investigated how spatial organization influences color-pair preference asymmetries: differential preference for one color pair over another when the pairs contain the same colors in opposite spatial configurations. Schloss and Palmer (2011, Attention, Perception, & Psychophysics 73 55-571) found weak figure ground preference asymmetries for smal...
Article
Purpose: Recently, we demonstrated that, contrary to predictions by classical hierarchical vision models, global context affects spatial masking (Barghout and Tyler ARVO 2000). Here we ask whether these effects can be altered by synchrony grouping with a spatially remote stimulus. Methods: We measured threshold elevation as a function of pedestal c...
Article
Previous results from our laboratory have shown that perceptual grouping occurs after various kinds of constancy processing, because perceived grouping can be strongly influenced by depth, post-constancy lightness perception, amodal completion, and illusory contours. We now report results showing that grouping also occurs before constancy processin...
Article
Purpose: Recently, we demonstrated that, contrary to predictions by classical hierarchical vision models, global context affects spatial masking (Barghout, Palmer and Tyler VSS 2002). Here we examine the effect of global context on masking by edge induced illusory contours on a target both consistent and inconsistent with an induced brightness illu...
Article
Full-text available
Holes present an intriguing paradox for figure-ground organization. Although the outside of a hole is seen as the closer figure and the inside as the farther ground, the shape of the interior region appears to be well perceived and remembered, contrary to the usual claim that border assignment is unidirectional and linked for depth and shape. Recen...
Article
Previous research on aesthetic response to spatial composition of simple pictures examined preferences for the horizontal position of single objects within a rectangular frame (Palmer, Gardner & Wickens, 2007). The results revealed a center bias for front-facing objects and an inward bias for left- or right-facing objects. The current studies exami...
Article
Previous research on aesthetic preference for spatial compositions has shown robust and systematic preferences for object locations within frames, such as the center bias, the inward bias, and various ecological biases (Palmer, Gardner, & Wickens, 2008; Gardner & Palmer, VSS-2006, VSS-2008, VSS-2009). These preferences can be dramatically altered,...
Poster
According to the Ecological Valence Theory (EVT), people's color preferences are determined by their average affective response to all “things” associated with those colors (Palmer & Schloss, submitted). Accordingly, preference for a color should increase with increasingly positive feelings for a strong associate of that color (e.g., one's universi...
Poster
Consistent with Schloss and Palmer's (VSS-2009) Ecological Valence Theory (EVT) of color preference, 80% of the variance in average American preferences for 32 chromatic colors was explained by the Weighted Affective Valence Estimate (WAVE) of American preferences for the objects that are characteristically those colors. To test predictions of the...
Poster
Schloss and Palmer (VSS-2009) reported that 80% of the variance in average color preferences for 32 chromatic colors by American participants was explained by an ecological measure of how much people like the objects that are characteristically those colors. The weighted affective valence estimate (WAVE), computed from the results of a multi-task p...
Article
Previous research has shown that individuals differ in the degree to which they prefer harmonious color pairs, as measured by the correlation between their ratings of preference for figure-ground color pairs and their ratings of harmony for the same color pairs (Schloss & Palmer, VSS-2007). In this study, we investigated whether individual preferen...
Poster
Schloss, Lawler, and Palmer (VSS-2008) investigated the relation between color and classical music by having participants select the 5 colors that “went best” (and, later, the 5 colors that “went worst”) with 18 musical pieces from among the 37 colors of the Berkeley Color Project (Palmer & Schloss, submitted). They found that the emotional associa...
Poster
Palmer and Schloss (submitted) proposed an Ecological Valence Theory (EVT) of color preferences, which states that color preferences are determined by individuals' emotional experiences with objects characteristically associated with those colors. An implication of the EVT is that an individual's color preferences change as he/she has new emotional...
Presentation
Last year we described the Configural Shape Illusion (CSI), in which the shape of a rectangular target is distorted by an attached region, or “inducer” (Palmer, Schloss, & Fortenbaugh, VSS-2009): the target's perceived aspect ratio changes toward the aspect ratio of the whole configuration. We also showed that the illusion increases as grouping inc...
Poster
In previous research we found that preference for color pairs increased as a function of color similarity (Schloss & Palmer, VSS07). The 37 colors we used were, however, only coarsely sampled within color space: 8 hues (red, orange, yellow, chartreuse, green, cyan, blue and purple) × 4 brightness/saturation levels (saturated, light, muted and dark)...
Poster
Previous research on preference for color combinations investigated pairs of colors (Schloss & Palmer, VSS-07; Ou & Luo, 2006). The current project investigated preference for combinations of three colors in varying proportions. The full set of 37 colors included eight hues (red, orange, yellow, chartreuse, green, cyan, blue and purple) at four sat...
Poster
We studied cross-cultural color preferences for the 37 colors of the Berkeley Color Project: 8 hues (unique-red, orange, unique-yellow, chartreuse, unique-green, cyan, unique-blue, and purple) × 4 brightness/saturation levels (saturated, desaturation, light, and dark) plus five grays. Forty observers in Tokyo, Japan, and 48 observers in Berkeley, U...
Presentation
A new illusion - the configural shape illusion (CSI) - is reported in which the shape of a rectangle is systematically distorted by an attached/adjacent contextual region, when both are seen as part of a single configuration. In particular, the rectangle's perceived aspect ratio changes in a direction consistent with the aspect ratio of the whole c...
Poster
In this project we investigated the role of spatial composition in preference for color pairs. Our 37 colors included: 8 hues (red, orange, yellow, chartreuse, green, cyan, blue, purple) × 4 brightness/saturation levels (saturated, desaturated, light, dark) plus five grays. In the first experiment, displays contained two figure-ground pairs (small...
Article
Full-text available
Identifying the visual cues that determine relative depth across an image contour (i.e., figure-ground organization) is a central problem of vision science. In this paper, we compare flat cues to figure-ground organization with the recently discovered cue of extremal edges (EEs), which arise when opaque convex surfaces smoothly curve to partly occl...
Article
Within what reference frames do orientation-related factors of figure-ground organization operate: retinal, environmental/gravitational, or object-based? Previous research showed that the bias toward lower regions is based on retinal directions: Observers whose heads were upside-down perceived the retinally lower (and thus gravitationally upper) re...
Article
The current project maps the internal structure of a rectangular frame through goodness ratings of one or more probe targets placed at different positions and orientations in its interior (Palmer, 1991). In Experiment 1, participants rated the goodness-of-fit for a single, small, circular dot placed at each of 7 x 11 positions within a rectangle. T...
Article
In a previous study of figure-ground effects due to the presence of shading gradients at extremal edges (Palmer & Ghose, VSS 2006), we found that when edges were parallel to the equiluminance contours of the shading gradient (i.e., at extremal edges), perception was very powerfully biased toward seeing the gradient-side as closer and figural. ; We...
Article
Full-text available
Color preference is an important aspect of visual experience, but little is known about why people in general like some colors more than others. Previous research suggested explanations based on biological adaptations [Hurlbert AC, Ling YL (2007) Curr Biol 17:623-625] and color-emotions [Ou L-C, Luo MR, Woodcock A, Wright A (2004) Color Res Appl 29...
Article
We studied the internal structure of rectangular frames by measuring the perceived goodness-of-fit of small probe shapes positioned within them. In Experiment 1, the rectangle's center was rated as the best-fitting position for a small, circular dot, with elevated fit ratings also along global axes of symmetry (both horizontal and vertical) and loc...
Article
In previous research (VSS 2007) we reported that perception of depth and figure-ground organization is strongly affected by Gradient Cuts (GCs): edges that intersect (“cut”) the equiluminance contours of a shading gradient. In particular, GCs biased the gradient side to appear as a farther ground when the size of the angle between the EquiLuminant...
Article
Past research in our laboratory (Palmer, Gardner & Wickens, in press; Palmer & Gardner, VSS 2007) has shown robust and systematic aesthetic preferences for the horizontal position and direction of a single object within a frame. In particular, people prefer the object to be laterally positioned near the center of the frame (the “center bias”) and t...
Poster
We investigated the relations among color, music, and emotion for the 37 colors of the Berkeley Color Project: saturated, desaturated, light, and dark shades of red, orange, yellow, yellow-green, green, blue-green, blue, and purple, plus white, black, and 3 grays. To study color/music relations, participants viewed all 37 colors while listening to...
Conference Paper
Full-text available
Color preference is an important aspect of human behavior, but little is known about why people like some colors more than others. Recent results from the Berkeley Color Project (BCP) provide detailed measurements of preferences among 32 chromatic colors as well as other relevant aspects of color perception. We describe the fit of several color pre...
Conference Paper
The previous literature on the aesthetics of color combinations has produced confusing and conflicting claims. For example, some researchers suggest that color harmony increases with increasing hue similarity whereas others say it increases with hue contrast. We argue that this confusion is best resolved by considering three distinct judgments abou...
Article
Full-text available
Two often cited but frequently confused pictorial cues to perceived depth are height in the picture plane (HPP) and distance to the horizon (DH). We report two psychophysical experiments that disentangled their influence on perception of relative depth in pictures of the interior of a schematic room. Experiment 1 showed that when HPP and DH varied...