The Visual Aesthetics of Snowflakes

Perception. 2016 Nov;45(11):1304-1319. doi: 10.1177/2041669516661122. Epub 2016 Jul 28.


In two experiments, participants evaluated the perceived beauty of snowflakes and solid objects. The snowflake silhouettes used as experimental stimuli were created from photographs of natural snowflakes. Both the snowflake silhouettes and computer-generated solid objects varied in complexity. In Experiment 1, 204 participants selected the single snowflake and single solid object that was the most beautiful. In Experiment 2, 33 participants rated the perceived complexity and beauty of the entire set of 100 snowflakes and solid objects. When considered as a group, the participants' results for the solid objects replicated previous findings: The most and least complex objects were perceived as being the most beautiful. This pattern did not necessarily occur, however, for individual participants. Some participants in Experiment 2, for example, found only complex solid objects to be most beautiful ( N = 10); other participants found only the simple solid objects to be most beautiful ( N = 11). Additional participants perceived both the most and least complex solid objects to be beautiful ( N = 10), while one participant only found moderately complex solid objects to be most beautiful. The results for the snowflakes were more uniform: 91% of participants perceived only the complex snowflakes as being most beautiful.

Keywords: aesthetics; complexity; visual beauty.

MeSH terms

  • Esthetics*
  • Humans
  • Pattern Recognition, Visual*
  • Snow*
  • Visual Perception*