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Hekkert, P. & Snelders, D. & van Wieringen, P.C.W. (2003) ‘Most Advanced, yet acceptable’: Typicality and novelty as joint predictors of aesthetic preference in industrial design. British Journal of Psychology, 94, 111-124.

  author = 	 {Hekkert, Paul and Snelders, Dirk and van Wieringen, Piet C.W.},
  title = 	 {‘Most Advanced, yet acceptable’:Typicality and novelty as joint predictors of aesthetic preference in industrial design},
  journal = 	 {British Journal of Psychology},
  year = 	 {2003},
  volume = 	 {94},
  pages = 	 {111--124}

Author of the summary: Peter Wozniak, 2012, peter.wozniak@iconduit.ca

Cite this paper for:

Over time, classes of consumer products standardize the technical specifications of the class, which increases market competition leading to greater emphasis on aesthetic appeal.[p1]
Aesthetic appeal is linked to typicality or conventionalism, genuine preference, and novelty.
This study investigates the tension between typicality and novelty.

Preference for prototypes theory (PfP)(Whitfield & Slatter, 1979): the more prototypical an object, the more aesthetically preferred.[p2]

Zajonc’s mere exposure hypothesis (MEH)(Zajonc, 1968): familiarity increases with repeated unreinforced exposure. Typicality increases with familiarity, so PfP incorporates exposure/familiarity theory. note: Familiarity is not the only factor for typicality.[p2]

Bornstein’s explanation for preferring both the novel and the familiar(Bornstein 1989): adult adaptation calls for preference of the familiar over the novel as a method of moderating inherent risk in the unknown; Children, however, seek novel stimuli for learning.[p2]

Bornstein tested MEH across 8 classes of artifacts and positive correlation of exposure and aesthetic preference was found to be lowest in those classes that rely on novelty for creation or appraisal, such as abstract art.[p2]

Typicality and novelty are not mutually exclusive but have a strong negative correlation. As both have positive correlation with aesthetic preference this study observes one variable’s limiting effects on preference while manipulating the other variable.[p2]

STUDY 1: Correlation between novelty, typicality, and aesthetic preference of artifacts in 3 categories of importance for aesthetic appeal.[p3]

Hypothesis: Aesthetic preference will be determined by effects of typicality and novelty despite these variables have counteracting influence on each other.[p3]

3 groups (equal # reps from each gender) recruited from Delft University of Technology and general population.

Pictures of a variety of sanders, telephones and teakettles presented in random order in two rounds: once for familiarization and once for assessment of typicality, novelty, and aesthetic preference.

Typicality and novelty ratings had high negative correlations.
Correlations between typicality and preference and novelty and preference were not statistically relevant.
Typicality was strongly correlated with aesthetic preference (>0.76 across categories).
Novelty was strongly correlated with aesthetic preference (>0.75 across categories).
Regression analysis showed novelty influencing aesthetic preference more strongly than typicality for sanders and telephones, but the opposite for teakettles.
Typicality and novelty are nearly equally important to aesthetic preference.

It can be inferred that typicality and novelty are factors in aesthetic preference of consumer products, even sanders.
It is likely that the expertise of the participants is a source of variance in the measurements.

STUDY 2: Verification of theory that experts’ aesthetic judgement is based on suppression of initial effects in favour of advanced evaluation. It is hypothesized that familiarity (and representativeness) is associated with the suppressed initial response leading expert evaluation to rely more on novelty. Additionally, it has been hypothesized experts have a stronger conceptual structure and seek out novel information more readily and with less cognitive effort(Alba & Hutchinson, 1987).[p6]

Hypothesis: Relative contribution of novelty to aesthetic preference will be higher for experts. [p7]

Product Involvement(Laurent & Kapferer, 1985; Zaichowsky, 1985): expert consumers expose themselves to more data on their subject of interest more frequently, thereby having an “expertise” of familiarity or detailed product knowledge.[p7]

Cars were selected as product class due to ease of identifying “expert” consumers with high product involvement.[p7]

Industrial Design Engineering students from Delft University did a questionnaire to classify their expertise on cars. Of the 22 participants 11 were classified as experts and 11 as non-experts.
20 cars were selected as stimuli. To narrow aesthetic (and pricing) field only medium-size class vehicles were used.

As before

Inter-class correlations with typicality for experts and non-experts were 0.71 and 0.75, respectively.
Both experts and non-experts had extremely high correlation between novelty (originality) and aesthetic preference.
Typicality and novelty were negatively correlated for non-experts but not significantly for experts.
For non-experts novelty correlated with aesthetic preference slightly more than typicality.
Correlation between typicality and preference was not significant for experts.
Correlation between novelty and preference was significant for experts.
Novelty and typicality were both strongly correlated with aesthetic preference for experts.
Regression analysis showed novelty had more significance than typicality for both groups, however experts has lower influence from both aspects.
Results are counter to hypothesis, namely, expertise does not have significant effect on predicting aesthetic preference.

Hypothesis that typicality and novelty are jointly associated with aesthetic preference yet suppress each others effects is supported. It is found that expertise reduces mutual suppression effect which allows for novelty to have greater correlation with aesthetic preference. This effect is possibly due to experts having more elaborate categorization for typicality which are less influenced by novelty(Alba & Hutchinson, 1987; Gaver & Mandler, 1987; Hekkert & Snelders, 1995). Novelty scores were similar between groups, but not typicality, which was contrary to hypothesis that experts would experience influence from novelty more than non-experts.

STUDY 3: Verify whether correlation of typicality and aesthetic preference is circular or bi-directional. Participants rate similarity between all possible pairs of 14 phones then central tendency (typicality) is calculated objectively. Central tendency is closely tied to typicality(Barsalou, 1985).[p9]

Hypothesis: Measuring central tendency of similarity will bear similar results to self-reported measures of typicality.[p9]

Mixed-gender group of students from Delft University of Technology.
Same set of phones from first study.
Same measures of typicality, novelty, and aesthetic preference as in Study 1.
Additional scores of similarity gathered for all possible pairings of phones.

3 rounds of randomized order presentations: first a familiarization session, then rating similarities between pairings, then assessment of typicality, novelty, and aesthetic preference.

All intraclass correlations were reliable (>0.80).
No significant correlations between typicality, novelty and aesthetic preference.
Typicality and novelty very strongly and significantly negatively correlated.
Typicality strongly correlated with aesthetic preference.
Novelty strongly correlated with aesthetic preference, but slightly less than typicality.
Regression analysis shows typicality and novelty jointly explain 56% of aesthetic preference.
Regression analysis showed typicality was better predictor of aesthetic preference.
The central tendency scores correlated very strongly and significantly with scores of typicality and negatively with novelty.
Central tendency correlated well with aesthetic preference.
Regression analysis shows central tendency and novelty jointly explain 60% of aesthetic preference; not significantly more than self-assessed typicality.

Again, typicality and novelty each have significant effect on aesthetic preference. Central tendency and typicality are found to be closely related, reducing concerns of circular dependency between typicality and aesthetic preference.

Findings of three studies show typicality and novelty jointly influence aesthetic preferences of consumer products but also suppress each others effects as they are in opposition.
Typicality can only predict aesthetic preference when stimuli are meaningful and categorizable so its effects suppress influence of novelties in classes such as art or architecture. This may be an explanation for previous attempts to correlate novelty alone with aesthetic preference(Berlyne, 1971, 1975; Martindale, Moore, & Borkum, 1990; Whitfield, 1983).

This study supports previously suggested theories of two separate mechanisms (Hekkert & Snelders, 1995; Murphy & Zajonc, 1993; Bornstein, 1989; Kaplan, 1987) as follows:[p11]
PfP (mentioned at intro) and automatic favour of typical stimuli have been shown to operate unintentionally with positive correlation to exposure frequency(Alley & Cunningham, 1991; Bornstein, 1989; Janiszewski, 1993; Kunst-Wilson & Zajonc, 1980; Murphy & Zajonc, 1993).[p11]

The second mechanism is a more engaging process of striving for novel information/stimuli which can suppress PfP which may operate more subconsciously with a familiar field of data(Mandler, 1985; Schneider & Shiffrin, 1977; Stern, Marrs, Millar, & Cole, 1984; Bornstein, 1989).[p11]

How the two hypothetical mechanisms reach equilibrium depends on context(Hekkert & Snelders, 1985). As typicality tends toward automatic recognition it has been suggested it is favoured when exposure times are short(Kruglanski, Freund, Bar-Tal, 1996).[p12]

Classes of artifacts intended to be experienced aesthetically (art) have been shown to rely on cognitive engagement of novelty (Hekkert, 1995; Bornstein, 1989) and experience less of an effect from typicality.[p12]

Observer characteristics, such as expertise, while not observed in the class of artifacts of these studies, could favour novelty in aesthetically dependant classes where these characteristics more starkly divide categories of consumers(Hekkert & van Wieringen, 1996).[p12]

This study supports Raymond Loewy’s industrial design principle Most Advanced Yet Acceptable (MAYA) (1951). Designers would benefit from striking a balance between novelty and typicality.[p12]

Summary author's notes:

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