Visual interest in pictorial art during an aesthetic experience

Paul Locher, Elizabeth A. Krupinski, Claudia Mello-Thoms, Calvin F. Nodine

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

143 Scopus citations


Two experiments were performed during which adults untrained in the visual arts were shown digital versions of eight paintings by renowned artists. In Experiment 1 participants' written reactions following a single 100 ms glance at each work were found to overwhelmingly reflect an initial holistic impression (i.e. gist) of the structural arrangement and semantic meaning of the paintings. In the second experiment participants' eye movements and verbal reactions were recorded as they evaluated each reproduction for pleasingness. Analyses reveal the relationships between the content and structural organization of the art stimuli and the way viewers select, process and think about information contained in paintings across the time course of an aesthetic experience. The results are interpreted in terms of an information-processing stage model of visual aesthetics according to which perceptual-cognitive processing of an art stimulus begins with the rapid generation of a gist reaction followed by scrutiny of pictorial features directed in a top-down fashion by cognitively-based evaluative processes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)55-77
Number of pages23
JournalSpatial Vision
Issue number1-2
StatePublished - Jan 1 2008


  • Aesthetic evaluation
  • Gist reaction
  • Pictorial art
  • Verbal reactions
  • Visual exploration

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Computer Vision and Pattern Recognition


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