Tom Bever · [CogsciColloq] Laws of form in Perception: Aesthetic theory, the Golden Ratio and Depth Perception
Recent investigations in language and cognition have revived the notions of the role of natural formal laws in cognition and language. In this talk, I discuss the impact of the golden ratio in aesthetic preferences, and its implications for the perception of depth. The golden ratio – as the limit of the Fibonacci series – appears throughout nature, in both biological and physical systems. The two Aristotelian aesthetic theories can explain the preference for the golden ratio frame – it exhibits both optimal complexity in initial stages of vision by virtue of its recursiveness, and creating-and-resolving of representational conflicts. I first review some classic aesthetic theories, conflict resolution and optimal complexity, and briefly review the arguments that such processes may play a critical role in language acquisition. I then show how both principles apply to explain the historically attested preference for the golden section. I then show how these theories predict that the golden ratio frame for paintings and scenes should enhance the illusory perception of depth within them. I then show that various experimental studies confirm those predictions. The result is an unexpected verification both of the general theory of aesthetics and its application to the golden section: equally unexpected from prior theories is the emergent discovery that the golden ratio frame enhances depth perception. Finally, I discuss some new studies in collaboration with several artists, creating new art works designed to explore the interaction of frame shape with different kinds of scenes.