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Perception, memory and aesthetics of indeterminate art

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posted on 2023-03-21, 11:55 authored by Alumit Ishai, Scott L. Fairhall, Robert Pepperell

 Indeterminate art, in which familiar objects are only suggestive, invokes a perceptual conundrum as apparently detailed and vivid images resist identification. We hypothesized that compared with paintings that depict meaningful content, object recognition in indeterminate images would be delayed, and tested whether aesthetic affect depends on meaningful content. Subjects performed object recognition and judgment of aesthetic affect tasks. Response latencies were significantly longer for indeterminate images and subjects perceived recognizable objects in 24% of these paintings. Although the aesthetic affect rating of all paintings was similar, judgement latencies for the indeterminate paintings were significantly longer. A surprise memory test revealed that more representational than indeterminate paintings were remembered and that affective strength increased the probability of subsequent recall. Our results suggest that perception and memory of art depend on semantic aspects, whereas, aesthetic affect depends on formal visual features. The longer latencies associated with indeterminate paintings reflect the underlying cognitive processes that mediate object resolution. Indeterminate art works therefore comprise a rich set of stimuli with which the neural correlates of visual perception can be investigated. 


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Brain Research Bulletin




  • AM (Accepted Manuscript)


Ishai, A., Fairhall, S. L., & Pepperell, R. (2007).' Perception, memory and aesthetics of indeterminate art.', Brain research bulletin, 73(4-6), 319-324.

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Cardiff Met Affiliation

  • Cardiff School of Art and Design

Cardiff Met Authors

Robert Pepperell

Cardiff Met Research Centre/Group


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  • en

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