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Electrophysiological correlates of aesthetic processing of webpages: a comparison of experts and laypersons
We investigated whether design experts or laypersons evaluate webpages differently. Twenty participants, 10 experts and 10 laypersons, judged the aesthetic value of a webpage in an EEG-experiment. Screenshots of 150 webpages, judged as aesthetic or as unaesthetic by another 136 participants, served as stimulus material. Behaviorally, experts and laypersons evaluated unaesthetic webpages similarly, but they differed in their evaluation of aesthetic ones: experts evaluated aesthetic webpages as unaesthetic more often than laypersons did. The ERP-data show main effects of level of expertise and of aesthetic value only. There was no interaction of expertise and aesthetics. In a time-window of 110–130 ms after stimulus onset, aesthetic webpages elicited a more negative EEG-amplitude than unaesthetic webpages. In the same time window, experts had more negative EEG-amplitudes than laypersons. This patterning of results continued until a time window of 600–800 ms in which group and aesthetic differences diminished. An interaction of perceiver characteristics and object properties that several interactionist theories postulate was absent in the EEG-data. Experts seem to process the stimuli in a more thorough manner than laypersons. The early activation differences between aesthetic and unaesthetic webpages is in contrast with some theories of aesthetic processing and has not been reported before.