14 March 2013 Fractals in art and nature: why do we like them?
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Fractals have experienced considerable success in quantifying the visual complexity exhibited by many natural patterns, and continue to capture the imagination of scientists and artists alike. Fractal patterns have also been noted for their aesthetic appeal, a suggestion further reinforced by the discovery that the poured patterns of the American abstract painter Jackson Pollock are also fractal, together with the findings that many forms of art resemble natural scenes in showing scale-invariant, fractal-like properties. While some have suggested that fractal-like patterns are inherently pleasing because they resemble natural patterns and scenes, the relation between the visual characteristics of fractals and their aesthetic appeal remains unclear. Motivated by our previous findings that humans display a consistent preference for a certain range of fractal dimension across fractal images of various types we turn to scale-specific processing of visual information to understand this relationship. Whereas our previous preference studies focused on fractal images consisting of black shapes on white backgrounds, here we extend our investigations to include grayscale images in which the intensity variations exhibit scale invariance. This scale-invariance is generated using a 1/f frequency distribution and can be tuned by varying the slope of the rotationally averaged Fourier amplitude spectrum. Thresholding the intensity of these images generates black and white fractals with equivalent scaling properties to the original grayscale images, allowing a direct comparison of preferences for grayscale and black and white fractals. We found no significant differences in preferences between the two groups of fractals. For both set of images, the visual preference peaked for images with the amplitude spectrum slopes from 1.25 to 1.5, thus confirming and extending the previously observed relationship between fractal characteristics of images and visual preference.
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Branka Spehar, Branka Spehar, Richard P Taylor, Richard P Taylor, "Fractals in art and nature: why do we like them?", Proc. SPIE 8651, Human Vision and Electronic Imaging XVIII, 865118 (14 March 2013); doi: 10.1117/12.2012076; https://doi.org/10.1117/12.2012076

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