Effects of Perceptual Uncertainty on Arousal and Preference Across Different Visual Domains

Thomas Z. Ramsøy, Morten Friis-Olivarius, Catrine Jacobsen, Simon B. Jensen, Martin Skov

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review


To what extent can simple contextual events affect preference? In this study, three tests were applied to assert whether contextual unpredictability has a negative effect on preference for novel visual items. By asking subjects to rate their first impressions of novel brand logos while playing simple sounds, Study 1 shows that brand logos coupled to unpredictable sounds were rated less favorably than logos presented with a predictable sound. In Study 2, this effect is found to be equally strong for abstract art paintings. Finally, Study 3 demonstrates that the negative effect of unpredictable sounds on preference is associated with a stronger arousal response, as indexed by pupil dilation responses. These results suggest that unpredictable sounds engage an emotional response that affects the first impression of a concurrently presented visual object. We discuss these findings in light of the basic psychology and neuropsychology of preference formation.
Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Neuroscience, Psychology and Economics
Issue number4
Pages (from-to)212-226
Publication statusPublished - 2012

Cite this