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VAST-Diskussion, Runde 1

  1. Eine Frage der Ordnung von Gerhard Stemberger
  2. K.O. Götz und die Psychologie der Gestaltwahrnehmung von Herbert Fitzek
  3. Is the Visual Aesthetic Sensitivity Test (still) relevant to psychology researchers? von Nils Myszkowski
  4. Discussion on VAST von Riccardo Luccio
  5. The VAST in Psychology today von Thomas Jacobsen, Barbara E. Marschallek, Selina M. Weiler
  6. A designer’s view of (and qualms about) the VAST von Roy R. Behrens

5. The VAST in Psychology today

Text: Thomas Jacobsen, Barbara E. Marschallek, Selina M. Weiler

Übersicht: Der VAST und seine revidierte Fassung sind auch heute noch als Beispiel für ein Fähigkeitskonstrukt in der ästhetischen Verarbeitung und deren Unterformen relevant. Dennoch muss die grundlegende Konzeptualisierung der ästhetischen Sensitivität, und damit auch des VAST, diskutiert und von ästhetischen Präferenzen differenziert werden.

The Visual Aesthetic Sensitivity Test (VAST; Götz, 1985) is one of the very few instruments available to psychologically assess inter-individual differences in mental processing pertaining to aesthetic appreciation. Its underlying idea is to gauge the ability of an individual to detect or judge the objective aesthetic goodness of a pictorial composition. It uses 50 pairs of black and white drawings differing in their composition, more or less slightly. The VAST, therefore, has a scope that is limited to visual displays, and, at that, to aspects of its composition. Of course, there are many more relevant features in visual aesthetics, and in non-visual domains of aesthetics as a whole.

Being a rare instrument to measure the construct aesthetic sensitivity, some authors have criticized its weakness of unidimensionality and structural validity (Myszkowski & Storme, 2017). To overcome these limitations, the authors have revised the instrument. Based on a subset of items of the VAST, the VAST-R has an improved internal consistency and structural validity (Myszkowski & Storme, 2017). In recent years, the VAST has seen a revived interest. For one, it has been reassessed in a number of psychometric studies. For example, the instrument, including its revised version, have been used in a study investigating the correlation of need for uniqueness, i.e., the desire to achieve uniqueness, and visual aesthetic sensitivity (Marschallek et al., in press). Finding an inverse relation, the results suggest that participants who strive for individuality exhibit lower visual aesthetic sensitivity since they tend to violate norms in order to assert their uniqueness. Interestingly, no better psychometric properties were observed for the revised version.

Yet, the fundamental conceptuality of aesthetic sensitivity, and thus also of the VAST, has been questioned in the past months. Myszkowski and Zenasni (2016) share the idea of Eysenck (1940; 1983) to define it as “good taste” (“T”). The same authors also propose shifting from “single-content measures” (2016; p. 1) to comprehensive assessments of an “Aesthetic Quotient” (AQ), which would include other facets of aesthetic ability—like artistic knowledge, sensitivity to complexity and aesthetic empathy. Corradi et al. (2019) on the other hand, define aesthetic sensitivity as the “degree to which a person’s aesthetic valuation is influenced by a certain sensory feature” (p. 13). This leads the authors to the idea, that aesthetic sensitivity relies on aspects such as learning, experience and cognitive processes and therefore must be seen a preference construct, rather than an ability construct.

Further, a differentiation between descriptive and normative approaches needs to be taken into account. Eysenck (1940; 1983) seemingly intended a normative approach: The VAST can tell what good taste is and what’s not, based on implying what is good taste. In our view, external criteria would be required for it. Such a conception may be distinguished from approaches acknowledging the subjective, self-referential nature of aesthetic processing, as seen for example, in applications of judgment analysis for judgment policy capturing (e.g., Jacobsen & Höfel, 2002). Using unambiguous symmetric and asymmetric stimuli, Leder and colleagues (2019) found in their study, that experts have a preference for the latter, whereas laymen prefer the former. Yet, these results by no means imply that laymen have the ability to detect an underlying symmetry. That is, aesthetic sensitivity needs to be disentangled from aesthetic preferences.

In sum, the VAST is relevant today in itself, either through the revised version and even the original version as an example of an ability construct in aesthetic appreciation, or aesthetic processing as a whole, that could be extended to other features of the visual domain as well as other domains sites (Jacobsen, 2006).

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Corradi, G., Chuquichambi, E. G., Barrada, J. R., Clemente, A., & Nadal, M. (2019): A new conception of visual aesthetic sensitivity. In: British Journal of Psychology. https://doi.org/10.1111/bjop.12427

Eysenck, H. J. (1940): The general factor in aesthetic judgements. In: British Journal of Psychology: General Section, 31(1), 94–102. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.2044-8295.1940.tb00977.x

Eysenck, H. J. (1983): A new measure of “good taste” in visual art. In: Leonardo, 16(3), 229–231. https://doi.org/10.2307/1574921

Götz, K. O. (1985): VAST: Visual aesthetic sensitivity test (4th ed.). Düsseldorf, Germany: Concept Verlag.

Jacobsen, T. (2006): Bridging the arts and sciences: A framework for the psychology of aesthetics. In: Leonardo, 39(2), 155–162. https://doi.org/10.1162/leon.2006.39.2.155

Jacobsen, T., & Höfel, L. (2002): Aesthetic judgments of novel graphic patterns: analyses of individual judgments. In: Perceptual and Motor Skills, 95(3), 755-766. https://doi.org/10.2466/pms.2002.95.3.755

Leder, H., Tinio, P. P. L., Brieber, D., Kröner, T., Jacobsen, T., & Rosenberg, R. (2019): Symmetry is not a universal law of beauty. In: Empirical Studies of the Arts, 37(1), 1–11. https://doi.org/10.1177/0276237418777941

Marschallek, B. E., Weiler, S. M., Jörg, M., & Jacobsen, T. (accepted): Make it special! Negative correlations between the need for uniqueness and visual aesthetic sensitivity. In: Empirical Studies of the Arts. https://doi.org/10.1177%2F0276237419880298

Myszkowski, N., & Storme, M. (2017): Measuring “Good Taste” with the Visual Aesthetic Sensitivity Test-Revised (VAST-R). In: Personality and Individual Differences, 117, 91-100. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.paid.2017.05.041

Myszkowski, N., & Zenasni, F. (2016). Individual differences in aesthetic ability: The case for an aesthetic quotient. In: Frontiers in Psychology, 7, 750. https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2016.00750


w/k-Redaktion (2020): VAST-Diskussion, Runde 1. w/k - Zwischen Wissenschaft & Kunst. https://doi.org/10.55597/d13752

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