Evaluative Judgment Across Domains: Liking Balance, Contour, Symmetry and Complexity in Melodies and Visual Designs

Ana Clemente, Marcus T. Pearce, Martin Skov, Marcos Nadal*

*Corresponding author for this work

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Evaluative judgment—i.e., assessing to what degree a stimulus is liked or disliked—is a fundamental aspect of cognition, facilitating comparison and choosing among alternatives, deciding, and prioritizing actions. Neuroimaging studies have shown that evaluative judgment involves the projection of sensory information to the reward circuit. To investigate whether evaluative judgments are based on modality-specific or modality-general attributes, we compared the extent to which balance, contour, symmetry, and complexity affect liking responses in the auditory and visual modalities. We found no significant correlation for any of the four attributes across sensory modalities, except for contour. This suggests that evaluative judgments primarily rely on modality-specific sensory representations elaborated in the brain’s sensory cortices and relayed to the reward circuit, rather than abstract modality-general representations. The individual traits art experience, openness to experience, and desire for aesthetics were associated with the extent to which design or compositional attributes influenced liking, but inconsistently across sensory modalities and attributes, also suggesting modality-specific influences.
Original languageEnglish
Article number105729
JournalBrain and Cognition
Number of pages12
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2021


  • Sensory valuation
  • Aesthetic sensitivity
  • Liking
  • Images
  • Music
  • Modality-specific
  • Linear mixed-effects models

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