Basic aesthetic features and their influence on attention and performance
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Within experimental aesthetics it is often claimed that artists can exploit the normal activity of the perceptual system in order to achieve aesthetic effect. This thesis extends such a proposal by providing evidence to suggest that the elementary units of aesthetic experience are intrinsic to the normal functioning of the perceptual system. The practical implication of this proposal is that aesthetic relevance can be studied via its effects on perceptual performance instead of reliance on preference measures which may poorly reflect real-world experience. It also underscores the importance of research in experimental aesthetics as it proposes that we experience the world in a fundamentally qualitative manner. The strategy of the thesis was to select two phenomena with extensive previous research literature and avowed aesthetic relevance, namely visual balance and golden ratio sectioning, and apply visual search paradigms to investigate their effects on performance. Furthermore, and in order to follow up on results from findings relating to visual balance, a study involving domestic chicks (Gallus gallus domesticus) was conducted in order to test the proposal that the observer effects of this phenomenon in the human studies were due to perceptual organisation rather than the specific neural architecture of human observers.