Novelty, complexity, and hedonic value


Two experiments, in which Ss were exposed to sequences of colored shapes, investigated effects on ratings of “pleasingness” and “interestingness” of variables that had previously been shown to affect ratings of “novelty.” The results indicate, on the whole, that both pleasingness and interestingness increase with novelty. These findings run counter to those of experiments indicating an inverse relation between novelty and verbally expressed preference. Two further experiments examined effects of some variables that might account for this apparent discrepancy. Homogeneous sequences declined in judged “pleasantness” more than sequences in which several stimuli were interspersed, and simple stimuli became less pleasant as they became less novel, while complex stimuli declined less or became more pleasant. The findings are related to hypotheses regarding mechanisms of hedonic value. Two crucial predictions were confirmed in a fifth experiment.


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This investigation was supported by Research Giant APB-73 from the National Research Council of Canada. Experiments HI and IV were carried out while the author held a Visiting Professorship at the Institut d’Esthétique et des Sciences de l’Art, University of Paris, awarded jointly by the Scientific Affairs Division of NATO and the Minna-James-Heineman Foundation, while on sabbatical leave from the University of Toronto. The data of Experiments I and II were collected by Jerry Colglazier, those of Experiments III and IV by Lydie Boudct, and those of Experiment V by Mary Louise King and Kathryn Davies. The author is indebted to them for their able collaboration. Experiments III and IV were carried out in the Laboratory of Experimental Psychology of the University of Paris-Nanterre, thanks to the cooperation of Professor R. Frances.

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Berlyne, D.E. Novelty, complexity, and hedonic value. Perception & Psychophysics 8, 279–286 (1970).

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  • Linear Component
  • Complex Stimulus
  • Sequence Class
  • Simple Stimulus
  • Heterogeneous Sequence