It Felt Fluent, and I Liked It: Subjective Feeling of Fluency Rather Than Objective Fluency Determines Liking

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Abstract

According to the processing-fluency explanation of aesthetics, more fluently processed stimuli are preferred (R. Reber, N. Schwarz, & P. Winkielman, 2004, Processing fluency and aesthetic pleasure: Is beauty in the perceiver's processing experience? Personality and Social Psychology Review, Vol. 8, pp. 364–382.). In this view, the subjective feeling of ease of processing is considered important, but this has not been directly tested in perceptual processing. In two experiments, we therefore objectively manipulated fluency (ease of processing) with subliminal perceptual priming (Study 1) and variations in presentation durations (Study 2). We assessed the impact of objective fluency on feelings of fluency and liking, as well as their interdependence. In line with the processing-fluency account, we found that objectively more fluent images were indeed judged as more fluent and were also liked more. Moreover, differences in liking were even stronger when data were analyzed according to felt fluency. These findings demonstrate that perceptual fluency is not only explicitly felt, it can also be reported and is an important determinant of liking.

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