Provocative Aspects of Pictures of Animals in Confined Settings

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The perceptual aspects of various animal pictures were studied to assess their aesthetic appeal in a high-fidelity interior mock-up of the proposed International Space Station. We examined a variety of mammals in light of two ecologically important attributes—the direction of their gazes and their apparent distance from the viewer—that could conceivably promote differences in subjective attitudes and sympathetic nervous system arousal, the latter reflected by changes in pupillary dilation. Another point of examination was the amount of picture area occupied by various birds and mammals. Slides were projected on a simulated video monitor, and subjects rated the images using scales of preference, interest, familiarity, and mock-up enhancement. Results showed that nearby, staring animals elicited more physiological arousal and less favorable attitudes than did nearby animals averting their gazes; animals staring from greater distances were clearly the most preferred, interesting, and provided the greatest mock-up enhancement. Animals occupying larger picture areas were more arousing than those occupying smaller areas, and, irrespective of scale, birds enhanced the mock-up more than mammals did. These findings suggest that pictures of animals, especially birds, can enhance the aesthetic appeal of confined, technical settings, though large pictures of nearby, staring mammals might create an inappropriately threatening context.

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: September 1, 1990

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