Natural surroundings have fractal patterns that recur at various size scales, and they are also found in highly beautiful creative creations. By the age of three, youngsters have developed an adult-like affinity for visual fractal patterns found in nature. That discovery was made among children raised in an environment of Euclidean geometry, such as buildings with rooms built with straight lines in a basic non-repeating way, according to the study’s primary author Kelly E. Robles.
“Unlike early humans who lived outside on savannahs, modern-day humans spend the majority of their early lives inside these manmade structures,” Robles said. “So, since children are not heavily exposed to these natural low-to-moderate complexity fractal patterns, this preference must come from something earlier in development or perhaps are innate.”
Individual variations in processing approaches were investigated to see if they might explain for patterns in fractal fluency. In the study, participants were shown pictures of fractal designs, both exact and statistical, ranging in complexity on computer displays. Exact fractals are highly organized in such a way that the same fundamental pattern repeats perfectly at every size and may have spatial symmetry like snowflakes. Statistical fractals, on the other hand, recur in a similar but not precise manner across size and lack spatial symmetry found in coastlines, clouds, mountains, rivers, and forests. Both styles may be seen in art from all around the world.
“Since people prefer a balance of simplicity and complexity, we were looking to confirm that people preferred low-to-moderate complexity in statistically repeating patterns, and that the presence of order in exact repeating patterns allowed for a tolerance of and preference for more complex patterns.”
Although there were significant variations in adult and kid choices, the general trend was similar. Exact patterns with higher complexity were favored, but preference for statistical patterns peaked at low-moderate complexity and subsequently decreased as complexity increased. The researchers were able to rule out the idea that age-related perceptual techniques or biases drove differing preferences for statistical and precise patterns in the following stages with the individuals.
According to co-author Richard Taylor, the aesthetic experience of witnessing nature’s fractals has enormous potential advantages ranging from stress relief to rejuvenating brain weariness.
“Nature provides these benefits for free, but we increasingly find ourselves surrounded by urban landscapes devoid of fractals,” he said. “This study shows that incorporating fractals into urban environments can begin providing benefits from a very early age.”
A shared fractal aesthetic across development, Kelly E. Robles, Nicole A. Liaw, Richard P. Taylor, Dare A. Baldwin & Margaret E. Sereno
Published: November 2020, Humanit Soc Sci Commun 7, 158