Context effects on beauty ratings of abstract paintings: Contrast, contrast, everywhere!

Cody Tousignant, Glen Bodner

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Citations (Scopus)


We explored how the rated beauty of an abstract painting is influenced by the relative beauty of a context painting. To this end, average-beauty abstract target paintings were paired with either a low-beauty or a high-beauty context painting. This context-beauty manipulation was crossed with 3 other between-groups factors common in studies of contrast/assimilation effects: (a) context paintings were either of a similar (abstract) or different (representational) style, (b) context-target pairs were presented either sequentially or simultaneously, and (c) participants rated either 1 or 5 context-target pairs. Abstract paintings were deemed more beautiful when paired with the low-beauty (vs. high-beauty) paintings, and this contrast effect was not moderated by our other manipulations- even though each yielded a main effect. This ubiquitous contrast pattern challenges current selective accessibility and range-frequency models of context effects on aesthetic judgments. To accommodate our findings, these models will need to better specify how participants perceive and assess the similarity of pairs of paintings.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)369-377
Number of pages9
JournalPsychology of Aesthetics, Creativity, and the Arts
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2018


  • Aesthetic judgments
  • Context effects
  • Contrast/assimilation effects
  • Paintings


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