Aesthetic appreciation is a complex cognitive processing with inherent aspects of cold as well as hot cognition. Research
from the last decades of empirical has shown that evaluations of aesthetic appreciation are highly reliable. Most
frequently, facial attractiveness was used as the corner case for investigating aesthetic appreciation. Evaluating facial
attractiveness shows indeed high internal consistencies and impressively high inter-rater reliabilities, even across
cultures. Although this indicates general and stable mechanisms underlying aesthetic appreciation, it is also obvious that
our taste for specific objects changes dynamically. Aesthetic appreciation on artificial object categories, such as fashion,
design or art is inherently very dynamic. Gaining insights into the cognitive mechanisms that trigger and enable
corresponding changes of aesthetic appreciation is of particular interest for research as this will provide possibilities to
modeling aesthetic appreciation for longer durations and from a dynamic perspective. The present paper refers to a recent
two-step model ("the dynamical two-step-model of aesthetic appreciation"), dynamically adapting itself, which accounts
for typical dynamics of aesthetic appreciation found in different research areas such as art history, philosophy and
psychology. The first step assumes singular creative sources creating and establishing innovative material towards
which, in a second step, people adapt by integrating it into their visual habits. This inherently leads to dynamic changes
of the beholders' aesthetic appreciation.
Aesthetic pleasure is a function of the perceiver’s processing dynamics. According to the Hedonic Fluency Model (Winkielman et al, 2003, in The Psychology of Evaluation: Affective processes in cognition and emotion J Musch and K C Klauer, Mahwah, Erlbaum), the perceptual fluency of a stimulus has an influence on affective judgments about this stimulus. This so-called Fluency Affect Link predicts higher positive judgments with increasing perceptual fluency. In the present experiment, stimuli of different levels of complexity and of positive as well as negative valence from the IAPS database were tested for their aesthetic appreciation. Perceptual fluency was manipulated through perceptual priming.
Contrary to the predictions of the Hedonic Fluency Model, participants’ (n = 20) aesthetic appreciation only benefited from fluency of stimuli with positive, but not with negative valence. Actually, stimuli with negative valence were judged more negative in the highly fluent than in the low fluent condition.
These findings are compatible with the Fluency Attribution Hypothesis (Jacoby et al, 1989, in Varieties of memory and consciousness: Essays in honour of Endel Tulving, H L Roediger and F I M Craik, Hillsdale, Erlbaum), asking for an adaptation of current research hypotheses often derived from the Hedonic Fluency Model.
Al-Qaida’s founder Osama bin Laden wore highly iconic paraphernalia (Carbon, 2008 Perception 37(5)
801–806), namely a turban and a characteristic beard. As the media consistently presented him in
this distinctive style, his outward appearance formed a visual stereotype of Islamist terrorists that, in
most cases, did not match the appearance of Islamist assassins. Using the multidimensional Implicit
Association Test (md-IAT, Gattol et al, 2011 Plos One 6(1) e15849) we tested the effect of adding
accordant stereotypical paraphernalia to male Caucasian faces (‘Muslim-version’): Compared to the
original, non-manipulated versions, the ‘Muslim-versions’ were evaluated as being more irrational,
unintelligent, unreliable and, particularly, as being more dangerous. Importantly, non-psychologists’
and psychologists’ data did not show any significant difference concerning these implicit measures but
did so for explicit measures assessed by a further test. This dissociate data pattern demonstrates that
iconic presentations elicit stereotypical associations independently of explicit reports. We argue that
visual attributes like a particular kind of beard and a turban are associated with conformity to Islam,
which is again associated with terrorist threat. More generally, the results suggest that the mere presence
of visual attributes can induce implicit black-and-white categorization and undifferentiated prejudice
toward people of other cultures.