Order, complexity, and aesthetic appreciation

Figure licensed under CC BY 4.0 by Eline Van Geert & Johan Wagemans. Retrieved from https://doi.org/10.6084/m9.figshare.6144383.


Which stimulus and person characteristics determine aesthetic appreciation? For many centuries, philosophers and scientists have been trying to solve this complex puzzle. Through the ages, order, complexity, and the balance between order and complexity have frequently been considered as an answer to this question. The literature on the topic, however, both theoretically and empirically speaking, is rather diffuse and contradictory. In this review, we give an overview of the main theories and empirical findings relating order, complexity, and their interplay to aesthetic appreciation, focusing on research concerning the visual modality. Additionally, we propose our own view on the interplay between order and complexity, in line with the reviewed theories and findings. Besides general relations, also individual differences in order, complexity, aesthetic appreciation, and their interrelations are discussed. With this review, we hope to conceptually clarify the literature and point to new roads for investigation in the field of human aesthetics.

Psychology of Aesthetics, Creativity, and the Arts


Van Geert, E., & Wagemans, J. (2019). Order, complexity, and aesthetic appreciation. Psychology of Aesthetics, Creativity, and the Arts. Advance online publication. doi:10.1037/aca0000224