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Perceived dynamics of static images enable emotional attribution

Perceived dynamics of static images enable emotional attribution

The effect of the shapes we perceive is well-known and utilized in various domains. For example, the Bouba/Kiki effect is an effect that allows cartoon or animation characters to be designed with specific emotional attributes. The question of whether individuals consistently ascribed emotions to static forms is based on the appearance of dynamic forces between these forms. Irena Pavlova, Arseny Sokolov, and Alexander Sokolov conducted research on emotions and dynamics in single forms in 2005.

They asked participants to assess triangles, ovals, and lines for the feelings they suggested after displaying them in various orientations. Participants rated the strength of the basic emotions that may be associated with the figures after initially estimating the instability of geometric forms rotated in 15-degree steps in the visual plane. They discovered no conclusive connection between perceived instability and the figures’ deviation from the vertical alignment. Negative feelings and perceived instability were found to have a substantial positive association regardless of form. Positive feelings, on the other hand, were inversely related to the figure’s divergence from the vertical alignment.

Figure 1. Schematic representation of a static frame from the classic Heider-and-Simmel film. Abstract geometric shapes moving around and inside of the rectangle (a ‘house’), a section of which could be open and closed as a ‘door’. Particular personal traits, needs, dispositions, and emotions (aggression, fear, loss of safety, or rescue) are often attributed to these shapes as if they were animate beings. For example, the small triangle and disk are repeatedly reported as being in love, and the large triangle as expressing anger and trying to steal away the disk. © Marina Pavlova et al, 2005

Figure 3. Rotation of geometric shapes from vertical orientation and perceived instability. An isosceles triangle standing on the top (a), an oval egg-shaped figure (c), and a single line (e) that were rotated from the vertical orientation (for the triangle, from the vertical orientation of its height; for the oval, from the longer diagonal, illustrated by dotted lines) in 158 steps in the image plane in two upper quadrants. For simplicity, we show only rotations to the right. Supplementary lines (thin vertical and horizontal axes, and dotted lines representing the height of the triangle and the longer axis of the oval) are shown for illustrative purposes only. The perceived instability (as estimated by participants) of the triangle (b), the oval (d), and the single line (f ) increased from the left (most stable) to the right (most unstable position). Irrespective of geometric shape, a positive correlation was found between perceived instability and negative emotions (fear, suffering): the rightmost positions of the figures in the sets (b), (d), and (f ) were perceived as most fearful, and in the sets (b) and (f ) also as expressing the most suffering. The strength of positive emotions ( joy, surprise) was negatively related to the physical deviation
of the figures from the vertical orientation: the leftmost positions of the figures in the sets (a), (c), and (e) were perceived as most joyful and surprised. © Marina Pavlova et al, 2005

Figure 4. Perceived instability of a triangle with schematic depiction of negative (frowning) (b), neutral (c), and positive (smiling) (d) emotions. The perceived instability increases from the left (most stable) to the right (most unstable position). Irrespective of emotion, the perceived instability of figures with schematic emotional expression significantly correlates with instability of the triangle without emotional expression (a). Significant positive correlations occur also between perceived instability of triangles with different emotional expressions.© Marina Pavlova et al, 2005

In some sense, the present data appear to reflect the daily-life human-body dynamics.

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The result supports the hypothesis that brain networks for producing movements and comprehending other people’s dispositions are closely related and shows for the first time how dynamism given by static pictures permits precise emotional attributions.

Overall, the findings appear to agree well with the assumption that perception and production of human-body movement are intimately tied. The results also suggest that emotional impressions relate not only to perceived dynamics of a single snapshot in time, but rather depend on real or extrapolated changes of the
figure or body over time.

Perceived dynamics of static images enables emotional attribution, Marina Pavlova, Arseny A. Sokolov, Alexander Sokolov
Published: 2005
DOI: 10.1068/p5400

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