'Most advanced, yet acceptable': typicality and novelty as joint predictors of aesthetic preference in industrial design

Br J Psychol. 2003 Feb;94(Pt 1):111-24. doi: 10.1348/000712603762842147.


Typicality and novelty have often been shown to be related to aesthetic preference of human artefacts. Since a typical product is rarely new and, conversely, a novel product will not often be designated as typical, the positive effects of both features seem incompatible. In three studies it was shown that typicality (operationalized as 'goodness of example') and novelty are jointly and equally effective in explaining the aesthetic preference of consumer products, but that they suppress each other's effect. Direct correlations between both variables and aesthetic preference were not significant, but each relationship became highly significant when the influence of the other variable was partialed out. In Study 2, it was furthermore demonstrated that the expertise level of observers did not affect the relative contribution of novelty and typicality. It was finally shown (Study 3) that a more 'objective' measure of typicality, central tendency - operationalized as an exemplar's average similarity to all other members of the category - yielded the same effect of typicality on aesthetic preference. In sum, all three studies showed that people prefer novel designs as long as the novelty does not affect typicality, or, phrased differently, they prefer typicality given that this is not to the detriment of novelty. Preferred are products with an optimal combination of both aspects.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Choice Behavior / physiology*
  • Consumer Behavior / statistics & numerical data*
  • Discrimination, Psychological / physiology*
  • Esthetics / psychology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Industry*
  • Judgment / physiology*
  • Male