Psychophysics for perception of (in)determinate art

Christian Wallraven, Kathrin Kaulard, Cora Kürner, Robert Pepperell, Heinrich Bulthoff

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contribution

7 Citations (Scopus)


The question of how humans perceive art and how the sensory percept is endowed with aesthetics by the human brain has continued to fascinate psychologists and artists alike. It seems, for example, rather easy for us to classify a work of art as either "abstract" or " representational". The artist Robert Pepperell recently has produced a series of paintings that seek to defy this classification: his goal was to convey "indeterminancy" in these paintings - scenes that at first glance look like they contain an object or belong to a certain genre but that upon closer examination escape a definite determination of their contents. Here, we report results from several psychophysical experiments using these artworks as stimuli, which seek to shed light on the perceptual processing of the degree of abstraction in images. More specifically, the task in these experiments was to categorize a briefly shown image as "abstract" or "representational". Stimuli included Pepperell's paintings each of which was paired with a similar representational work of art from several periods and several artistic genres. The results provide insights into the visual processes determining our perception of art and can also function as a "objective" validation for the intentions of the artist.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationProceedings - APGV 2007
Subtitle of host publicationSymposium on Applied Perception in Graphics and Visualization
Number of pages8
Publication statusPublished - 2007
EventAPGV 2007: 4th Symposium on Applied Perception in Graphics and Visualization - Tubingen, Germany
Duration: 2007 May 252007 May 27

Publication series

NameACM International Conference Proceeding Series


OtherAPGV 2007: 4th Symposium on Applied Perception in Graphics and Visualization


  • Categorization
  • Perception of art
  • Perceptual graphics
  • Psychophysics

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Software
  • Human-Computer Interaction
  • Computer Vision and Pattern Recognition
  • Computer Networks and Communications


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