Common visual preference for curved contours in humans and great apes

Enric Munar*, Gerardo Gomez-Puerto, Josep Call, Marcos Nadal

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

72 Citations (Scopus)
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Among the visual preferences that guide many everyday activities and decisions, from consumer choices to social judgment, preference for curved over sharp-angled contours is commonly thought to have played an adaptive role throughout human evolution, favoring the avoidance of potentially harmful objects. However, because nonhuman primates also exhibit preferences for certain visual qualities, it is conceivable that humans' preference for curved contours is grounded on perceptual and cognitive mechanisms shared with extant nonhuman primate species. Here we aimed to determine whether nonhuman great apes and humans share a visual preference for curved over sharp-angled contours using a 2-alternative forced choice experimental paradigm under comparable conditions. Our results revealed that the human group and the great ape group indeed share a common preference for curved over sharp-angled contours, but that they differ in the manner and magnitude with which this preference is expressed behaviorally. These results suggest that humans' visual preference for curved objects evolved from earlier primate species' visual preferences, and that during this process it became stronger, but also more susceptible to the influence of higher cognitive processes and preference for other visual features.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0141106
Number of pages15
JournalPLoS One
Issue number11
Publication statusPublished - 11 Nov 2015


  • Chimpanzees pan-troglodytes
  • Top-down facilitation
  • Homo-sapiens
  • Perception
  • Recognition
  • Monkeys
  • Color
  • Attractiveness
  • Aesthetics
  • Cognition


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