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Title: What have fractals got to do with it? : individual differences in aesthetic responses
Author: Street, Nichola
ISNI:       0000 0004 5369 1861
Awarding Body: University of Liverpool
Current Institution: University of Liverpool
Date of Award: 2015
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This project examines the application of fractal geometry to understanding aesthetic response to the visual environment. Fractals have been established as contributing to positive experiences both in response to art and nature, including aesthetic judgment. Taylor et al (2011) established that preferences for fractal patterns appear to consistently fall within the mid-range of fractal dimension (D1.3-1.5) others have found that preference for fractal complexity is linear (Forsythe et al., 2011). Here aesthetic responses to fractal patterns are tested in cross-cultural and sub-cultural settings with the aim of validating claims that mid-range fractal dimension a predictor of positive aesthetic response. This thesis has three overarching aims; the first to validate the mid-range hypothesis proposed by Taylor et al (2011) compared with other linear models of fractal preference, secondly to determine the relationship between visual complexity and fractal dimension, and finally a series of studies will explore the impact of individual difference on our aesthetic relationship with fractal patterns, these included Culture, Environmental Classification, Gender and Age. The 6 studies within this thesis demonstrate the progression of the research journey to arrive at the final conclusions of this thesis. Studies confirms the hypothesised relationship between fractal dimension and visual complexity, the fractal stimulus and GIF compression complexity scores as significantly correlated (r=-0.92, p < 0.001); suggested that fractal dimension and visual complexity are related constructs. Here only limited support for the mid-range hypothesis of fractal preference and instead results suggest preferences demonstrate linear relationships as a function of culture group and environmental classification. One of the strongest findings of this thesis is the significant distinction in preference between urban and rural dwellers, with rural dwellers demonstrating a higher probability of choosing complex & mid-range images compared to the urban dwellers. This result suggests that immediate visual environment has significant effects on preference for fractal patterns. Gender was also highlighted as a significant main predictor of preference for fractal patterns, with additional interaction effects with continent, environmental classification and age. Gender findings demonstrate females have a higher preference for complex fractal patterns. Results offer support for biological underpinning of universal aesthetic responses, in particular the distinction between males and females when processing aesthetic information and its links with gender specific activities in our evolutionary history (Cela-Conde et al, 2009; Silverman & Eals, 1992). A large-sample, final compilation study, explored the strength of predictions based on Continent, Gender and Age and results found support for the individual differences based on both Continent and Gender, however the Age was not supported as a function of fractal preference. Overall, this thesis demonstrates new insights into the field of aesthetic preference towards fractal patterns. Unlike previous studies, significant individual differences are evident, suggesting potentially fruitful future directions including advanced analysis and design strategies, neuroaesthetics foundations, as well as further quantification and perceptual analysis of the environment. Findings offer new and strong evidence for individual differences as contributors to different patterns of preferences for fractal patterns and lay the groundwork for further exploration into the potential applications of these findings.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available