The Pleasure of Seeing: Perceptual Foundations of Aesthetic Experience - A/Prof Branka Spehar

What is this research about?

The experience of beauty is among the most compelling and deeply valued aspects of our interaction with the world but our understanding of aesthetic appreciation remains elusive. Among the most limiting factors are the highly variable and individualistic characteristics of aesthetic experience, together with the widespread assumptions that they are influenced by cultural, contextual and idiosyncratic individual factors.

In contrast, we offer a novel account of aesthetic experience in which the aesthetic object, the perceptual processing of its properties, and the resulting affective responses are interrelated. We believe that the early sensory coding has genuine and direct affective consequences that underpin variations in aesthetic response across individuals.

This research is of immediate relevance to a host of creative industry domains from design of pleasing visual surroundings to user experience and advertising.

Other researchers involved:
Prof Richard P. Taylor, University of Oregon, USA
Dr Tamara Watson, Western Sydney University
Dr Damien Mannion, UNSW
Zoey Isherwood (PhD student)
Ms Catherine Viengham (PhD student)

Publications relating to this research:

Spehar, B & van Tonder, G. (2017) Koffka’s Aesthetic Gestalt, Leonardo, 50, 1: 53-57

Spehar B;Walker N;Taylor RP, 2016, 'Taxonomy of individual variations in aesthetic responses to fractal patterns', Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, vol. 10,

Spehar, B. & Taylor, R. (2016) Fractal fluency: An intimate relationship between the brain and processing of fractal stimuli. In Di Ieva, A. (Ed.) The Fractal Geometry of Brain. Springer

Spehar B;Wong S;van de Klundert S;Lui J;Clifford CW G;Taylor RP, 2015, 'Beauty and the beholder: The role of visual sensitivity in visual preference', Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, vol. 9,

2017 – 2019 Australian Research Council Discovery Grant, Accounting for taste: from sensation to aesthetic appreciation, Spehar, B. & Taylor, R.P.T ($270,000).

2017 – 2019 Australian Research Council Discovery Grant, Flower Power: Natural Form, Aesthetics and the Human Brain, Watson, T., Spehar, B. & Mannion, D.P ($270,000).


To find out more about this research, please contact Associate Professor Branka Spehar.