Prediction of beauty and liking ratings for abstract and representational paintings using subjective and objective measures

David Sidhu, Katrina McDougall, Shaela Jalava, Glen Bodner

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

24 Citations (Scopus)


Recent research on aesthetics has challenged the adage that “beauty is in the eye of the beholder” by identifying several factors that predict ratings of beauty. However, this research has emerged in a piecemeal fashion. Most studies have examined only a few predictors of beauty, and measured either subjective or objective predictors, but not both. Whether the predictors of ratings of beauty versus liking differ has not been tested, nor has whether predictors differ for major distinctions in art, such as abstract vs. representational paintings. Finally, past studies have either relied on experimenter-generated stimuli—which likely yield pallid aesthetic experiences—or on a curation of high-quality art—thereby restricting the range of predictor scores. We report a study (N = 598) that measured 4 subjective and 11 objective predictors of both beauty ratings and liking ratings, for 240 abstract and 240 representational paintings that varied widely in beauty. A crossover pattern occurred in the ratings, such that for abstract paintings liking ratings were higher than beauty ratings, whereas for representational paintings beauty ratings were higher than liking ratings. Prediction was much better for our subjective than objective predictors, and much better for our representational than abstract paintings. For abstract paintings, liking ratings were much more predictable than beauty ratings. Implications and directions for future research are discussed.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0200431
Number of pages15
JournalPLoS One
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2018

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