Research internship in Psychology
Interestingly, people show vast individual differences in what they aesthetically appreciate (e.g., Güclütürk et al., 2016). There have been many attempts to study factors of aesthetic appreciation that even range back to Fechner (1876). Two of the many factors that influence aesthetic appreciation are order and complexity. Their relationship has been described as antagonistic but also complementary: “Order needs complexity to show its structuring and clarifying potential and complexity needs order to be understood and appreciated” (Van Geert & Wagemans, 2020, p. 143). However, the relation between order, complexity, and aesthetic appreciation across individuals is yet to be unraveled.
In the past, the focus in aesthetics research has mostly been on aspects related to the stimulus. However, several authors noted that aesthetic appreciation does not only involve the study of stimulus characteristics, but also has to include person characteristics (Wagemans, 2011; Mather, 2013). One example for individual differences is that Openness to Experience is positively related to aesthetic preferences for complexity and to the appreciation of art in general (Chamorro-Premuzic et al., 2010). Moreover, education level also seems to play a role in preferences for complexity. Whereas students found complex stimuli appealing, manual workers preferred simpler stimuli (Francès, 1976). Next to Big Five traits and education level, perceptual and processing abilities also have an influence on the aesthetic appreciation of complexity in artworks (Sherman, Grabowecky, and Suzuki, 2015). More specifically, aesthetic appreciation depended on the compatibility or the match between an individual’s working memory capacity and the visual complexity of the artwork. If an individual could handle the complexity of an artwork, this artwork was preferred over other less complex pieces. The evidence above, amongst more evidence, leads us to assume that individual differences in working memory capacity could relate to preferences for complexity. In order to better understand different aspects of order, complexity, and their relation to individual differences we will use a controlled set of stimuli that we will create using the Order and Complexity Toolbox for Aesthetics (OCTA). Our goal is to investigate how individual differences in visual working memory capacity are related to the perception and appreciation of order and complexity.