Poetry that evokes vivid mental images is more aesthetically pleasing to readers, say scientists who have found several factors that make people like them.
Aesthetics, the fundamentals of what attracts us or not, play an important role in our everyday life: from deciding what to wear in the morning to choosing what to listen to during the journey. However, little is known about how we make these judgments.
The researchers tried to answer an old question: "Why do we like what we like?" – calculating what we find aesthetically pleasing in poetry.
"People do not agree on what they like, of course," said Amy Belfi, a postdoctoral fellow at New York University (NYU) at the time of the study.
"While it may seem obvious that individual taste matters in poetry judgments, we find that despite individual disagreement, it seems that certain factors consistently influence how much a poem will be enjoyed," said Belfi, lead author of the study published in the journal Psychology of Aesthetics, Creativity and the Arts.
The researchers asked more than 400 participants to read poems from two genres: haiku and sonnet, with the aim of understanding the factors that best predicted the aesthetic appeal of the poems.  After reading each poem, the participants answered questions about the intensity of the poems, emotional excitement, emotional valence and aesthetic appeal.
Their results showed that the vividness of mental images was the best predictor of tic appeal aesthetics – poems that evoke larger images were more pleasing.
Emotional valence also predicted aesthetic appeal, although to a lesser extent; specifically, the poems that turned out to be more positive were generally more attractive.
On the contrary, the emotional excitement did not have a clear relation with the aesthetic appeal.
Notably, readers disagreed on which poems they found attractive, a result that supports the idea that people have different tastes; However, there is a common ground -life of images and emotional valence- in which these tastes are explained, even if they vary.
"The vividness of a poem always predicted its aesthetic appeal," said Gabrielle Starr, dean of the NYUs College of Arts and Science.
"Therefore, it seems that the intensity of mental images can be a key component that influences what we like more broadly"
"Although limited to poetry, our work sheds light on which components They influence our aesthetic judgments more and pave the way for future research that investigates how we make such judgments in other domains, "he said.