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An Empirical Investigation of Color Temperature and Gender Effects on Web Aesthetics

Constantinos K. Coursaris, Sarah J. Sweirenga, and Ethan Watrall

Journal of Usability Studies, Volume 3, Issue 3, May 2008, pp. 103-117

Article Contents

Literature Review

The following sections present aesthetics and gender differences in hedonic effects.


Aesthetics is a subset of value theory that studies values, sometimes called judgments of sentiment or taste. Aesthetics is interlinked with the philosophy of art. It is considered to be a particular theory of the conception of beauty; a particular approach to what is pleasing to the senses (Hoffman & Krauss, 2004; Kripintiris & Coursaris, 2007). People throughout the centuries have been highly interested in aesthetics. The appreciation of beauty is a classical quality that is applied to many aspects of life, such as senses, imagination, and understanding (Lavie & Tractinsky, 2004). Aesthetics have been a topic of study and research over the ages by many schools of thought. They have been approached from many different angles and points of view. Aesthetics possess multiple meanings (Lavie & Tractinsky, 2004). A commonality among aesthetics across the centuries is their dynamic nature. Beauty has been reformulated to address and reflect the propensities of the era to which it belongs. It has been observed and studied that aesthetic preferences of the present come to replace those of the past and so forth (Lavie & Tractinsky, 2004). Tarasewich (2001) cites Eysenck (1983) who addresses two conflicting points on aesthetics. The first considers aesthetics as an objective quality that can be understood and shown to people. The second point of view sees aesthetics as something completely subjective and that beauty is a quality unable to be shown. However, Eysenck supports the concept that there is objectivity in aesthetic considerations. Also, some of his experiments provide insight regarding simple stimuli like shapes and color that may influence aesthetic judgments (Tarasewich et al., 2001; Eysenck, 1983). Similarly, the aforementioned dyadic relationship parallels those described in the respective works of DeAngeli et al. (2006) and Lavie and Tractinsky. Lavie and Tractinsky describe this dyad as two distinct approaches of understanding aesthetics described as classical aesthetics and expressive aesthetics. Classical aesthetics are defined as aesthetic notions that "presided from antiquity until the 18th century" and "emphasize orderly and clear design." Expressive aesthetics are defined as aesthetic notions that reflect a designer's creativity and originality (Lavie & Tractinsky, 2004). Nasar (1999) offers support for these two dimensions, but labels them visual clarity and visual richness respectively.

The relationship between classical and expressive aesthetics has received extremely limited attention. Lavie and Tractinsky (2004) point out that such a relationship is not predefined and that good design "should strive to balance their degrees given the design context." On the other hand, the Bayesian model presented by Papachristos et al. (2005) offers support for the following relationships between Web site design attributes: A "pleasant" design affects perceptions of a "fresh", "dynamic", and "modern" design, while an "attractive" design has a mediated effect on how "sophisticated" it is perceived to be. Several of these dimensions had been used in the operationalization of aesthetics by Lavie and Tractinsky, with "pleasant" falling under "classical" and "modern" measuring "expressive" aesthetics. Papachristos et al., based on a similar study from Kim et al. (2003), define their chromatic schemes after requesting actual users to characterize color combinations according to a set of emotional descriptors. Consequently, they gather the 12 most distinctive characterizations and they "formally" select (as they mention) a dominant and a secondary color scheme. Kim et al., following a similar pattern, first brainstorm with "design experts," and then survey Web users in order to identify 13 emotional dimensions. These attributes are found in the operationalization of the two aesthetics constructs by Lavie and Tractinsky, suggesting that classical aesthetics impact expressive aesthetics. Therefore, and with the caveat of extremely limited support, the following hypothesis is proposed:

H1. Higher levels of classical aesthetics will have a more positive effect on expressive aesthetics.

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