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Thesis defence : Hélène MOTTIER

Thesis defence

On 30 November 2020

Visual Arts and Cognition : Visual development and buildup of aesthetic judgments

This thesis aimed to improve our knowledge on the emergence of the aesthetic preference for visual objects in humans. In order to examine the effect of personal experience in the emergence of aesthetic judgment, we investigated the link between adults’ aesthetic preference judgments and visual preferences of 4-to-24-month-old infants and adults. If personal and cultural experience was necessary for the emergence of aesthetic judgment, differences were expected between subjective aesthetic judgments of adults and infants’ preference. Behavioural similarities in both infants and adults would underline the importance of perceptual processing and implicit memory integration in the formation of aesthetic judgment. High-level cognitive processes and personal experience playing a secondary role. Our first study examined the link between adults’ preference judgment and visual preference of infants and adults for moving dot patterns. For these moving dots, adult preference judgment predicted the looking time of both infants and adults. Studies 2.a and 2.b used portraits, although adults’ aesthetic preference judgments were robust and predicted adults’ looking time, they did not predict infants’ visual behaviour. Likewise for landscapes, adults’ aesthetic preference judgment did not predict the looking time of infants nor adults (study 3). Even if both adults and infants looked more often towards salient regions for portraits and landscapes (study 4), the visual information processed is insufficient to explain the aesthetic preference judgments of adults. The correlation between preference judgment and visual preference in the case of moving dot patterns could be explained by an early preference for moderate degrees of complexity (Berlyne, 1971). Study 5.a focused on the visual preference of infants towards complex or simple biological movements, and study 5.b towards biological movements and their more complex scrambled version. The results supported a preference for complexity in biological and non-biological movement. Personal experience is a necessary step in the formation of aesthetic judgment for works of art, even realistic ones. For singular visual stimuli such as motions or social stimuli such as faces, the formation of aesthetic judgment seems to predate personal experience. Our results may reflect the difference between attractiveness and aesthetics which requires further investigation.

Encadrants :
- Directeur de thèse : Olivier PASCALIS - (olivier[dot]pascalis[at]univ-grenoble-alpes[dot]fr)
- Co-encadrant : David MEARY - (meary[dot]david[at]univ-grenoble-alpes[dot]fr)

Keywords: Visual arts, Vision, Aesthetics, Development

Read the thesis


On 30 November 2020


UGA - Bourse AGIR

Submitted on 20 November 2023

Updated on 20 November 2023