Symmetry preference in shapes, faces, flowers and landscapes

Bertamini, M., Rampone, G., Makin, A. D. J., & Jessop, A. (2019). Symmetry preference in shapes, faces, flowers and landscapes. PeerJ, 7: e7078. doi:10.7717/peerj.7078.
Most people like symmetry, and symmetry has been extensively used in visual art and architecture. In this study, we compared preference for images of abstract and familiar objects in the original format or when containing perfect bilateral symmetry. We created pairs of images for different categories: male faces, female faces, polygons, smoothed version of the polygons, flowers, and landscapes. This design allows us to compare symmetry preference in different domains. Each observer saw all categories randomly interleaved but saw only one of the two images in a pair. After recording preference, we recorded a rating of how salient the symmetry was for each image, and measured how quickly observers could decide which of the two images in a pair was symmetrical. Results reveal a general preference for symmetry in the case of shapes and faces. For landscapes, natural (no perfect symmetry) images were preferred. Correlations with judgments of saliency were present but generally low, and for landscapes the salience of symmetry was negatively related to preference. However, even within the category where symmetry was not liked (landscapes), the separate analysis of original and modified stimuli showed an interesting pattern: Salience of symmetry was correlated positively (artificial) or negatively (original) with preference, suggesting different effects of symmetry within the same class of stimuli based on context and categorization.
Additional information
Supplemental Information
Publication type
Journal article
Publication date

Share this page