Cross-cultural comparison of aesthetic judgments in visual arts between Japanese and German speakers using machine learning-based analysis of artistic attribute predictors

Machine Learning

This study investigated the artistic attributes that contribute to judgments of beauty in Western visual artworks. We investigated whether these attributes show differences between raters from different cultural backgrounds, operationalized by their native language. This study aimed to answer two research questions:

  1. 1.

    What attributes of a work of art contribute to a judgment of beauty?

  2. 2.

    Does cultural background, as expressed by differences between native Japanese and German speakers, have a significant impact on judgments of beauty, and if so, what are the cross-cultural differences and commonalities in artistic attributes that predict beauty?

In the following discussion, we first describe cross-cultural commonalities and differences between the two cultural cohorts in artistic attributes predicting judgments of beauty. The results are also discussed in relation to the cognitive stages involved in aesthetic judgments. Finally, we address limitations and future possibilities of this research area.

Common artistic attributes that influence judgments of beauty

Our analysis revealed that four artistic attributes consistently influenced judgments of beauty across participants from both Japanese and German groups. These attributes were: Visual harmony, color diversity, valence, and complicated.

Regardless of their native language, participants tended to rate paintings with high visual harmony, rich colors, and positive values ​​as more beautiful. Conversely, artworks with disturbing shapes, few colors, and negative values ​​were perceived as less beautiful. Identifying visual harmony and positive values ​​as commonalities of beauty across cultures is consistent with historical and contemporary aesthetic debates.39,40,41,42,43,44However, from the results of step 3, the attribute Valence Although it was a significant predictor of beauty for both groups, the importance of this attribute was significantly greater for the German-speaking group, indicating different levels of importance between the two cultural cohorts.

Interestingly, the attribute complicated It also emerged as a consistent predictor of beauty across cultures. However, the Japanese and German groups showed opposite preferences for this attribute: the Japanese group preferred simpler paintings, while the German group found more complex artworks to be beautiful. This cross-cultural difference calls into question established notions of empirical aesthetics, which have suggested that people prefer moderate to high levels of complexity regardless of cultural heritage.6,10,11,45However, our findings open new debates regarding levels of complexity: the preference for simplicity among the Japanese group may reflect cultural values ​​associated with Zen principles that emphasize simplicity and tranquility. Kisha The word 'jiji' (喜税) means to give up willingly and to live simply, both mentally and physically, and East Asian cultures value simplicity. As a result, this appreciation for greater simplicity is also reflected in the preference for artwork. In Japanese and Chinese landscape painting, the use of space to make it appear simple, or at least to reduce visual complexity, is a very common aesthetic criterion.twenty oneFurthermore, traditional Japanese garden design intentionally emphasizes simplicity and a sense of serenity, both visible and experienced.46However, because our research design only employed paintings from Western art, the results highlight the potential influence of cultural upbringing on the aesthetic evaluation of paintings.

Of the four art attributes that significantly predict aesthetic judgments in both cultural cohorts, three art attributes belong to formal perceptual attributes: in AAA, these attributes correspond to early/middle human vision.7,8,14Our findings suggest that how we judge the beauty of visual art may already be determined at earlier stages of information processing, such as when processing the perceptual properties of stimuli or object categories.

Cross-cultural differences in artistic attributes that influence beauty

The results of step 3 revealed that the seven artistic attributes were significant predictors of beauty for some cultural groups but not for others. For the German group: Emotional expression were important attributes influencing beauty judgments, but the same importance did not apply to the Japanese group. Brushwork, the world of color, saturation, and Realism/Imagination The effect was only seen in the Japanese group. Also, the results of step 2.1 did not show a significant effect on the prediction of beauty, Accurate object representation and concentration Of the seven art attributes that show cross-cultural differences influencing judgments of beauty, three attributes (Brushwork, world of colors, saturation) belongs to the formal perceptual attribute, and the other four attributes (Emotional expression, realism/imagination, accurate representation of objects, concentration) belongs to the content-representation attribute. Thus, socio-cultural factors seem to influence beauty judgments not only at early/middle cognitive processing stages but also at later stages. This makes sense, given that cross-cultural differences are found not only in the types of visual stimuli that are more frequently encountered but also in those that are shared and reinforced among members of a society.47,48,49.

for example, Brushwork In the Japanese group, this may reflect cultural conventions such as writing style. Chinese charactersThe quality of the brush strokes is important to write beautiful characters. calligraphy (Calligraphy) or Shuji Shuji, a type of calligraphy, is one of the popular art forms in Japan and is included in the junior and senior high school curriculum. In calligraphy and shuji, Japanese words, or kanji, are written with a thick brush and ink on thin traditional washi paper. Therefore, considering that the evaluation of brush strokes is a common part of daily life for Japanese people, it seems reasonable to assume that this attribute is more important for the Japanese group and less important for the German group, who do not have such a tradition.

Importance Emotional expression For German speakers, this may be related to cultural differences in expressing emotions in everyday life and social interactions: Europeans are often said to be, on average, more expressive, whereas Japanese culture values ​​restraint, quietness and formality.21,50,51These differences in emotional expression are consistent with the social norms and conventions found in each culture.Certainly, these results are in some way consistent with the clichés of the two cultures, and further research into cultural conventions and norms, combined with visual arts evaluation research, is needed to question and elucidate the origin of these findings.

In addition, the attribute Realism/Imagination and Accurate object representation This is consistent with previous research and suggests that cultural values ​​and conventions can shape aesthetic preferences. For example, studies have shown that Westerners tend to value uniqueness, while East Asians tend to prefer submissive expressions. Kim and his colleagues52 It has been reported that North Americans prefer unique objects, such as rare pens, whereas East Asians prefer objects that convey uniformity, such as common pens. Our finding that Japanese participants rated realistic and accurate depictions as more beautiful is consistent with this pattern. This suggests that cultural values ​​and reinforcement cycles within cultures may shape aesthetic preferences.

When we took color into account, we found some interesting results. In the German group, Color Variety For the Japanese group, the main contributors to beauty judgments were Color VarietyOther color features were also significantly associated, e.g. Color Saturation, Color Temperatureand A World of ColorIshii et al.53 A similar trend was seen for the colours of the patterns, with participants tending to prefer colours from their own culture over those from other cultures.55They argued that Japanese and Canadian children provided feedback on colors that were consistent with the values ​​of their cultures. Our results suggest that despite the diversity of colors (see also the study on aggressive colors),30,54 A cross-cultural study of the emotional meaning of colors55,56,57) Color may be more important to the Japanese than to the Germans, not necessarily in the color associations of everyday life, but in works of art.

Finally, the attribute concentration Reflects the different ways of visual exploration in Eastern and Western cultures21,58East Asians tend to attend to contextual information in the visual field, whereas Westerners tend to prioritize focal objects. Our results show that Japanese speakers rated paintings rich in contextual information as more beautiful, reflecting cultural differences in visual search strategies.


First, it is important to acknowledge that our list of attributes is not exhaustive of beauty judgments. Nevertheless, we focused on a core set of widely recognized attributes and incorporated cross-cultural elements to ensure that the list was comprehensive yet manageable, taking into account participant fatigue and model integration (see our previous work for a detailed discussion).17,18). This approach was chosen to maintain the validity of the predictive model by keeping the number of factors at an appropriate level, without burdening participants. Therefore, based on our results, we hope that future studies will include other attribute scales and use data-driven approaches to further advance this line of research.

A further limitation was that differences in data collection occurred during the data collection period in Japan due to restrictions imposed by the COVID-19 pandemic, and therefore we were unable to control for potential differences due to the display of the images themselves.

This study focused on a specific subset of Western and East Asian cultures, represented by participants whose native languages ​​were Japanese and German. Therefore, the findings may not be generalizable to all Western or Asian cultures. Furthermore, the artworks used in the stimulus sample were only Western art images; therefore, they cannot be generalized to other art forms. We used a large set of 54 artworks selected from a databank.31differ along various pre-assessed dimensions, rather than a higher degree of cultural diversity59However, given the assumption that beauty emerges from a set of cognitive processes across stimuli, it is conceivable that the same mechanisms may also be at work when evaluating beautiful non-artistic objects (e.g., objects from everyday life). Future studies could extend our design to more diverse artworks, i.e., East Asian artworks, or include stimuli other than paintings, to further identify commonalities and differences in art attributes related to beauty judgments across culturally diverse populations.

We aimed to add value to contemporary theories of cognitive aesthetics and approach beauty from a different perspective.60,61,62Surprisingly, we do not aim to define what What is beauty? Moreover, it should be clear that our aim is not to discuss beauty from a philosophical or theoretical perspective. Instead, we understand the judgment of beauty as a collection of diverse, not unitary, cognitive processes, shaped by individual experience and socio-cultural influences. Our research therefore focuses on behavioral evaluations that express one's experience of finding a visual artwork beautiful. Nevertheless, our approach may foster and benefit from further discussion in aesthetic philosophy and sociology.63,64,65,66.

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