Experimental aesthetics

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search

Experimental aesthetics is a field of psychology founded by Gustav Theodor Fechner in the 19th century. According to Fechner, aesthetics is an experiential perception which is empirically comprehensible in light of the characteristics of the subject undergoing the experience and those of the object. Experimental aesthetics is thus characterized by a subject-based, inductive approach. It is defined as part of empirical aesthetics, in which causal hypotheses are tested by experiments.

Experimental aesthetics is the second oldest research area in psychology, psychophysics being the only field which is older.[1] In his central work Vorschule der Ästhetik ("Introduction to aesthetics") Fechner describes his empirical approach extensively and in detail.

Experimental aesthetics is strongly oriented towards the natural sciences. Modern approaches mostly come from the fields of cognitive psychology or neuroscience (neuroaesthetics[2]).


The analysis of individual experience and behavior based on experimental methods is a central part of experimental aesthetics. In particular, the perception of works of art,[3] music, or modern items such websites[4] or other IT products[5] is studied. Data can be examined and analyzed at three levels:

  1. Physiological level
  2. Phenomenological level (experience)
  3. Behavioral level

Here it is difficult to assign an absolute value to the aesthetics of an object. However, one can measure, for example, what percentage of subjects classify an object as beautiful or how many prefer this object to others.

Depending on the approach, a number of different methods are used in experimental aesthetics, such as pairwise comparisons, rank order methods, Likert scales and semantic differentials, production methods, statistical comparisons of groups, reaction time measurements, and also more complex methods such as eye tracking, electroencephalography, and functional magnetic resonance imaging.


  1. ^ Fechner, G. T. (1860), Elemente der Psychophysik ("Elements of psychophysics"), Breitkopf & Härtel, Leipzig
  2. ^ Martindale, C. (2007), Recent trends in the psychological study of aesthetics, creativity, and the arts. In Empirical Studies of the Arts, 25(2), p. 121-141.
  3. ^ Kobbert, M. (1986), Kunstpsychologie ("Psychology of art"), Wissenschaftliche Buchgesellschaft, Darmstadt
  4. ^ Thielsch, M. T. (2008), Ästhetik von Websites. Wahrnehmung von Ästhetik und deren Beziehung zu Inhalt, Usability und Persönlichkeitsmerkmalen. ("The aesthetics of websites. Perception of aesthetics and its relation to content, usability, and personality traits."), MV Wissenschaft, Münster
  5. ^ Hassenzahl, M. (2008), Aesthetics in interactive products: Correlates and consequences of beauty. In H. N. J. Schifferstein & P. Hekkert (Eds.): Product Experience. (pp. 287-302). Elsevier, Amsterdam

Further reading[edit]

  • Allesch, C. G. (1987), Geschichte der psychologischen Ästhetik. ("History of psychological aesthetics"), Verlag für Psychologie, Göttingen
  • Allesch, C. G. (2006), Einführung in die psychologische Ästhetik. ("Introduction to psychological aesthetics"), WUV, Vienna
  • Fechner, G. T. (1876), Vorschule der Ästhetik. ("Introduction to aesthetics"), Breitkopf & Härtel, Leipzig
  • Kebeck, Günther & Schroll, Henning, Experimentelle Ästhetik ("Experimental aesthetics"), Facultas Verlag, Vienna, ISBN 978-3-8252-3474-4
  • Leder, H., Belke, B., Oeberst, A., & Augustin, D. (2004), A model of aesthetic appreciation and aesthetic judgements. In British Journal of Psychology, 95, p. 489–508.
  • Reber, R., Schwarz, N., & Winkielman, P. (2004), Processing fluency and aesthetic pleasure: Is beauty in the perceiver's processing experience? In Personality and Social Psychology Review, 8, p. 364–382.