Golden Section & public preference.


Well-known member
I was looking through my notes for something else and came across something I'd written years back.

In the late 19th century Dr Gustav Fechner presented test subjects with a set of ten white rectangles on a black table "willy nilly" neither perfectly vertical or horizonal and in random order. All the rectangles had equal surface areas. Divided choices could be made for favorite, with another for least liked.

35% preferred golden section rectangles. None chose a golden section as least liked, though 1.4% picked an adjacently shaped one as this.

Not being an artist, Frechner supposed that a large portion of painting from 22 museums and galleries might conform in format to the Golden section, but was surprised that they did not. Then reasoning that divisions within the painting were probably more important. He found that vertical paintings more often displayed a 5:4 ratio, and horizontal ones a 3:4 ratio.

Lalo redid Fechners tests with the same 10 rectangles. More of Lalo's subjects preferred rectangles at the extreme of the range; but again the Golden section was favorite. Again, none chose it as least liked.

In the 1940's Thompson noted that symmetry and equality of length is an early childhood aesthetic tendency and only in later years does the preference for Golden Section take hold. Titchener in later tests confirmed this.

At odds with all of this was Michael Godkewitsch, in 1974 claiming that the averaging of rectangle shapes would naturally place a result of Golden Section. However Godkewitsch seemed to be ignorant of the fact that the Golden Section rectangle wasn't in the midpoint and was in fact closer to the 2/3rds position.