08.01.12

Do we have a subconscious understanding of abstraction?

Does it really matter which way you hang a Kandinsky? According to a study by George Mather at the University of Sussex, the answer is yes:

Experiment 1 asked whether naïve observers can appreciate the correct orientation (as defined by the artist) of 40 modern artworks, some of which are entirely abstract. Eighteen participants were shown 40 paintings in a series of trials. Each trial presented all four cardinal orientations on a computer screen, and the participant was asked to select the orientation that was most attractive or meaningful. Results showed that the correct orientation was selected in 48% of trials on average, significantly above the 25% chance level, but well below perfect performance. [...] 

For some paintings, orientation judgements were quite consistent, despite a lack of meaningful content. The origin of these orientation judgements remains to be identified.

Almost half the time, we can tell if an artwork is upside-down. Perhaps there's a similar gut feeling that tells us when there's a bug in a game or meta-commentating feature, like in Glitchhhiker