Photographic Clarity and Blur Influences Person Perception
26.531, Saturday, May 11, 2:45 - 6:45 pm, Vista Ballroom
James T Enns1, Sarah C MacDonald1; 1Department of Psychology, University of British Columbia
The selective blurring and sharpening of images is used by filmmakers, photographers, and artists (1) to guide visual attention and (2) to influence the emotional experience of the viewer. This study tests this two-part hypothesis by first using an eye tracker to measure the influence of selective blurring and sharpening on looking behavior. Thirty participants viewed twenty-four photos of couples for seven seconds each, before being asked to answer four Likert-scale questions about the personality of one of the people in the photo. The results showed that although viewers were instructed to look equally at both people, they generally looked first, and more often, at faces rendered in sharper focus relative to other faces. In the second phase, we measured the consequences of this selective looking on the attributions viewers make to the people depicted in photos. The results indicated that both longer looking times and image clarity played a role, although their relative importance depended on the dimension being queried. For example, while attractiveness ratings were positively correlated with overall viewing time there was an additional effect linked to image features (i.e., slightly blurred persons were judged as more attractive than an equivalent slight sharpening). For dimensions tied more closely to personality, viewing time seemed to play no role, but image features did (e.g., sharper faces received higher sociability ratings but lower trustworthiness ratings). These findings imply that person perception is influenced by superficial image features in much the same way that it is influenced by a persons physiognomy (Willis & Todorov, 2006). Our interpretation is that person perception is susceptible to inverse inferences deriving both from our own actions (e.g., looking longer leads to increased interest and value) and from a false understanding of the source of the image features (e.g., more self-revealing people are sharper in photos).