Nonlinear Dynamics, Psychology, and Life Sciences, Vol. 9, Iss. 1, January, 2005, pp. 89-114
@2005 Society for Chaos Theory in Psychology & Life Sciences


Perceptual and Physiological Responses to the Visual Complexity of Fractal Patterns

R. P. Taylor , University of Oregon, Eugene
B. Spehar, University of New South Wales, Australia
J. A. Wise, Washington State University, Tri-Cities
C. W. G. Clifford, Sydney University, Australia
B. R. Newell, University College London
C. M. Hagerhall, Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Alnarp, and University of Sydney, Australia
T. Purcell, University of Sydney, Australia
T. P. Martin , University of Oregon, Eugene

Abstract: Fractals have experienced considerable success in quantifying the complex structure exhibited by many natural patterns and have captured the imagination of scientists and artists alike. With ever widening appeal, they have been referred to both as "fingerprints of nature" and "the new aesthetics.” Our research has shown that the drip patterns of the American abstract painter Jackson Pollock are fractal. In this paper, we consider the implications of this discovery. We first present an overview of our research from the past five years to establish a context for our current investigations of human response to fractals. We discuss results showing that fractal images generated by mathematical, natural and human processes possess a shared aesthetic quality based on visual complexity. In particular, participants in visual perception tests display a preference for fractals with mid-range fractal dimensions. We also present recent preliminary work based on skin conductance measurements that indicate that these mid-range fractals also affect the observer’s physiological condition and discuss future directions based on these results.

Keywords: fractals, aesthetics, visual perception