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Contour Bias - Pg. 62

Contour Bias A tendency to favor objects with contours over objects with sharp angles or points. 1 When presented with objects that possess sharp angles or pointed features, a region of the human brain involved in fear processing, the amygdala, is activated. Likely a subconscious mechanism that evolved to detect potential threats, this fear response suggests that angular features influence the way in which objects are affectively and aesthetically perceived. Indeed, in experiments where subjects were presented with otherwise similar angled versus contoured objects (e.g., round-faced watches versus square-faced watches), subjects strongly preferred the more rounded, contoured objects. In some of these experiments, brain activity was observed using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) as subjects indicated their preference. The degree of amygdala activation was proportional to the degree of angularity or sharpness of the object presented, and inversely related to object preference. These effects were observed in both male and female subjects, and suggest an innately rooted contour bias in humans. 1 The picture is more complex, however, than to simply infer that all designs should be made round to increase their appeal. Objects used in the experiments were emotionally neutral. For example, a baby doll was not used for a contour object as it carries with it a set of positive emotional associations and biases, and a knife was not used for an angular object as it carries with it a set of negative The seminal work on the contour bias is "Humans Prefer Curved Visual Objects" by Moshe Bar and Maital Neta, Psychological Science, 2006, vol. 17. See also "Visual Elements of Subjective Preference Modulate Amygdala Activation" by Moshe Bar and Maital Neta, Neuropsychologia, 2007, vol. 45.