The hot fringes of consciousness: Perceptual fluency and affect

Notes that high figure-ground contrast usually results in more positive evaluations of visual stimuli. This may either reflect that high figure-ground contrast per se is a desirable attribute or that this attribute facilitates fluent processing. In the latter case, the influence of high figure-ground contrast should be most pronounced under short exposure times, that is, under conditions where the facilitative influence on perceptual fluency is most pronounced. To test this hypothesis, the authors conducted an experiment with circles of different figure-ground contrast. 48 Ss were exposed to the circles for either .3, 1, 3 or 10 sec and rated the prettiness of the stimuli. Ratings of prettiness increased with figure-ground contrast under short exposure times. This positive influence of figure-ground contrast was eliminated under an exposure time of 10 sec. It is concluded that stimuli with high figure-ground contrast are more appealing because they are easier to process, not because high figure-ground contrast per se is a desirable attribute. This finding is discussed in the context of William James's notion that the fringe of consciousness includes vague contextual feelings at the periphery of the focus of attention and suggest that perceptual fluency is one of these feelings. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2007 APA, all rights reserved)