Preferences for Symmetry – Expertise and Assessments (04-13-18)

Weichselbaum, Leder, and Ansorge researched humans’ responses to symmetry.  They share that  “In perception, humans typically prefer symmetrical over asymmetrical patterns. . . .  we tested the generality of the symmetry preference for different levels of individual art expertise. The preference for symmetrical versus asymmetrical abstract patterns was measured implicitly [indirectly], by an Implicit Association Test (IAT), and explicitly [directly], by a rating scale asking participants to evaluate pattern beauty. . . . In the IAT, art expertise did not alter the preference for symmetrical over asymmetrical patterns. In contrast, the explicit rating scale showed that with higher art expertise, the ratings for the beauty of asymmetrical patterns significantly increased, but, again, participants preferred symmetrical over asymmetrical patterns. . . . Evolutionary adaptation might play a role in symmetry preferences for art experts similarly to nonexperts, but experts tend to emphasize the beauty of asymmetrical depictions, eventually considering different criteria, when asked explicitly to indicate their preferences.”  So, it seems that both people who are art experts and those who are not have inherently positive responses to symmetrical patterns, but people with more art expertise, when asked directly about patterns, were more likely to respond positively to asymmetrical options.

Hanna Weichselbaum, Helmut Leder, and Ulrich Ansorge.  “Implicit and Explicit Evaluation of Visual Symmetry as a Function of Art Expertise.” I-Perception, in press,