We investigated how aesthetics guides our exploration of the environment. We embedded attractive and nonattractive faces into complex, real-world scenes and measured eye movements during scene viewing. We examined whether attractive faces would elicit longer looks, which would suggest that the aesthetic response orients people toward the rewarding and pleasing aspects of the environment. Experiment 1 showed that mean fixation, mean first fixation, and total fixation durations were longer to attractive faces, and fixations were longest to female faces and by female perceivers. In Experiment 2, we examined whether these effects of attractiveness are sensitive to situational factors. When perceivers were subjected to a threat or social approach manipulation prior to viewing the scenes, we confirmed specific hypotheses concerning the two manipulations. In accordance with the hypothesis that males have higher aggression potential than females, there were no differences in fixation durations between attractive and nonattractive male faces in the threat condition. On the other hand, in the social approach condition, both female and male attractive faces received longer looks. These results suggest that the aesthetic response orients people not only to the pleasing aspects of their environment, but also to those features that are adaptively relevant.
- Eye movements
- Social approach