Preference for Curved Contours Across Cultures

Article (PDF Available)inPsychology of Aesthetics Creativity and the Arts 12(4) · September 2017with 275 Reads
DOI: 10.1037/aca0000135
Abstract
We postulate that humans' preference for curvature is an expression of a natural propensity for aesthetics, understood as a set of perceptual, cognitive, and affective abilities and biases that orient humans toward the sort of sensory features that are used to convey culturally relevant meanings. Here we investigate whether preference for curved contours, observed previously in Western large-scale societies, is also present in 2 small-scale societies relatively uninfluenced by Western culture. We asked participants from Oaxaca (Mexico) and Bawku (Ghana), and also from Mallorca (Spain), to perform a 2-alternative, forced-choice task consisting in choosing between photographs of curved and sharp-angled versions of the same real objects presented for 80 milliseconds. The task required minimal instructions, aiming to avoid confounds arising from translations. Our results show that participants in each of the 3 countries chose the curved-contour alternative significantly more often than the sharp-angled one (Spain: .59; Mexico: .55; Ghana: .58) and that these proportions did not differ significantly. We conclude that preference for curved-contour objects is common across cultures and conjecture that it is a constituent of a natural propensity for aesthetics. (PsycINFO Database Record
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