The effects of categorization and prototypicality on aesthetic choice in a furniture selection task


Building Science Section, School of Architecture, University of Newcastle upon Tyne NE1 7RU


Recent research into perceptual categorization has demonstrated that successful classification depends upon the matching of a stimulus input with a prototype representing the appropriate category. The suggestion that aesthetic responses to stimuli are mediated by the categorization process was investigated in two furniture selection tasks. In the first experiment subjects were requested to select items of furniture from a display similar to those in a set, while preference selections were obtained in the second experiment. The sets comprised items in one of three styles — Modern, Georgian or Art Nouveau — with the display made up of examples of all three. The first experiment examined the reliability of classification for the styles selected, with results indicating the existence of two distinguishable categories, represented by the Modern and Georgian sets. Further, the Georgian and Art Nouveau sets appeared to belong to a broader category, in which the Georgian items were more prototypic, that is, were better examples of this category. The results of Expt. 2 showed a marked parallelism with the data from the similarity task and supported the hypothesis that aesthetic choice reflects categorization and prototypicality.