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A universal model of esthetic perception based on the sensory coding of natural stimuli

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image of Spatial Vision
For more content, see Multisensory Research and Seeing and Perceiving.

Philosophers have pointed out that there is a close relation between the esthetics of art and the beauty of natural scenes. Supporting this similarity at the experimental level, we have recently shown that visual art and natural scenes share fractal-like, scale-invariant statistical properties. Moreover, evidence from neurophysiological experiments shows that the visual system uses an efficient (sparse) code to process optimally the statistical properties of natural stimuli. In the present work, a hypothetical model of esthetic perception is described that combines both lines of evidence. Specifically, it is proposed that an artist creates a work of art so that it induces a specific resonant state in the visual system. This resonant state is thought to be based on the adaptation of the visual system to natural scenes. The proposed model is universal and predicts that all human beings share the same general concept of esthetic judgment. The model implies that esthetic perception, like the coding of natural stimuli, depends on stimulus form rather than content, depends on higher-order statistics of the stimuli, and is non-intuitive to cognitive introspection. The model accommodates the central tenet of neuroesthetic theory that esthetic perception reflects fundamental functional properties of the nervous system.

Affiliations: 1: Institute of Anatomy I, School of Medicine, Friedrich Schiller University, D-07740 Jena, Germany


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