Kim, S., Burr, D. & Alais, D. (2019).
Attraction to the recent past in aesthetic judgments: A positive serial dependence for rating artwork.
Journal of Vision, 12 (19), 19.
Visual perception can be systematically biased towards the recent past. Many stimulus attributes—including orientation, numerosity, facial expression and attractiveness, and perceived slimness—are systematically biased towards recent past experience. This phenomenon has been termed serial dependence. In the current study, we tested whether serial dependence occurs for aesthetic ratings of artworks. A set of 100 paintings depicting scenery and still life was collected from online archives. For each participant, 40 paintings were randomly selected from the set, and presented sequentially 20 times in random order. Serial dependence was quantified for each observer by measuring how their rating response on each trial depended on the attractiveness of the previous trial. The data were pooled across participants and fitted with a Bayesian model of serial dependence. Results showed that the current painting earned significantly higher aesthetic ratings when participants viewed a more attractive painting on the previous trial, compared to when they viewed a less attractive one. The magnitude of serial dependence was greatest when the attractiveness distance between consecutive paintings was relatively close. The effect held both for 1 s exposure times, and for brief 250 ms exposures (followed by a mask). These findings show that aesthetic judgments are not sequentially independent, showing that positive serial dependencies are not limited to low-level perceptual judgments.