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Richard Taylor
Professor of Physics, Psychology, and Art
Director, Materials Science Institute

Department of Physics
University of Oregon
Eugene, OR 97403-1274, U.S.A.
Tel: +1-541-346-4741
Fax: +1-541-346-3422
Email: rpt@uoregon.edu

Human Physiological Responses to Fractals in
Nature and Art:
Stress-Reduction

fractal vision

Fractal Vision: the red trajectory shows the fractal motion of the eye as the observer looks at one of Jackson Pollock’s fractal paintings. When the fractal properties of the two patterns match, the resulting resonance generates a state of relaxation in the observer

 


I lead an interdisciplinary research network that investigates the positive physiological changes that occur in people when they look at fractal patterns. The experiments - which use eye-tracking equipment to examine how people look at the patterns, and qEEG and fMRI probing techniques to quantify the resulting brain activity - indicate that people are ‘hard-wired’ to respond to a specific form of fractal found in nature, one that reduces stress levels by up to 60%. This stress-reduction is triggered by a physiological resonance that occurs when the fractal structure of the eye matches that of the fractal image being viewed. Our discovery that exposure to fractals automatically relaxes people holds crucial implications for society: the U.S. spends over $300 billion annually on stress-induced illnesses, and stress is increasingly blamed for precipitating debilitating disorders such as schizophrenia.

As society increasingly surrounds itself with urban landscapes, people risk disconnecting from this natural stress-reducer. Accordingly, my group investigates people’s responses to paintings created by artists famous for capturing the essence of nature on their canvases. For example, the positive physiological responses of viewing Jackson Pollock’s poured paintings and Mauk Escher’s tessellations might explain their enduring popularity. The long-term goal is to collaborate with artists and architects to incorporate stress-reducing fractals into novel indoor and outdoor environments. These ‘biophilic’ fractals could be used in many applications, ranging from keeping astronauts calm on their long journeys into space to soothing anxious patients in dentist waiting rooms.

Selected Recent Publications And Media

 

Behavioral and
Physiological
Responses
to Fractals:

 

Asia pacific conference on vision (2011) (click movie to play)

“Perceptual and Physiological Responses to Jackson Pollock’s Fractals” Frontiers in Human Neuroscience 5 1 (2011)

“Scaling Analysis of Spatial and Temporal Patterns: From the Human Eye to the Foraging Albatross” Chapter to the book Non-linear Dynamical Analysis for the Behavioral Sciences Using Real Data  CRC Press, Taylor and Francis Group (Boca Raton) ISBN 978-1-4398-1997-5 (2011)

“Investigation of EEG Response to Fractal Patterns” Perception 37 1488 (2008)

“Reduction of Physiological Stress Using Fractal Art and Architecture” Leonardo 39 245 (2006)

“Fractals: a Resonance between Art and Nature” chapter to the book Mathematics and Culture II Springer 53 (2005)

“Perceptual and Physiological Response to the Visual Complexity of Fractals”, The Journal of Nonlinear Dynamics, Psychology, and Life Sciences 9 89 (2005)

“Fractal Dimension of Landscape Silhouette as a Predictor of Landscape Preference” Journal of Environmental Psychology 24 247 (2004)

“Universal Aesthetic of Fractals” Chaos and Graphics 27 813 (2003)

 

Jackson Pollock:

“Fractal Expressionism: the Art and Science Behind Jackson Pollock’s Paintings” book to be published in 2013 (not available for download)

"The Abstract Expressionists and Les Automatistes: A Shared Multi-fractal Depth" Signal Processing, 573-878, 93, 2013

"Francis O'Connor discusses Pollock's Fractal Patterns"

“Chaos, Fractals, Nature: A New Look at Jackson Pollock”, book published by Fractals Research ISBN: 0-9791874-1-9 (2010) 

“Perceptual and Physiological Responses to Jackson Pollock’s Fractals” Frontiers in Human Neuroscience 5 1 (2011)

“Multifractal and Statistical Comparison of Painting Techniques of Adults and Children” SPIE Proceedings of Electronic Imaging, special edition on Computer Vision and Image Analysis of Art 7531 7531001-6(2010)

“Dimensional Interplay Analysis of ‘Poured’ Paintings” Fractals Research ISBN: 0-9791874-4-3 (2008)

“Authenticating Pollock Paintings with Fractal Geometry” Pattern Recognition Letters 28 695 (2007)

“Revisiting Pollock’s Poured Paintings” Nature Communications Arising 44 doi:10:1038/nature05399 (2006)

“In the Hands of the Master” by Alison Abbott Nature 439 648 (2006)

“Personal Reflections on Pollock’s Fractal Paintings” Invited essay, special edition of the Journal History, Science and Health 13 108-23 (2006)

“Fractal Expressionism - Where Art Meets Science” Invited Chapter to the book Art and Complexity Elsevier Science Amsterdam (2003)

“Order in Pollock’s Chaos” Scientific American 287 116 (2002)

The Construction of Pollock’s Fractal Drip Paintings” Leonardo 35 203-7 (2002)

“Fractal Expressionism” (web link)

 

Yves Klein:

 

“Emergence of Patterns from Nature’s Chaos, Through Parallels Between Edward Lorenz and Yves Klein” The Journal of Nonlinear Dynamics, Psychology, and Life Sciences 13 341 (2009)

"A Fascination with Fractals", Invited essay, Physics World, September 2013

 

Piet Mondrian:

“Mondrian, Pollock and Nature: Recent Scientific Investigations” published in Chaos and Complexity in Arts and Architecture, a special edition of Chaos and Complexity Letters 1 29 (2004)

“Spotlight on a Visual Language” Nature 415 961 (2002)

 

Mauk Escher:

"The Art and Science of Hyperbolic Tesselations" to be published in the Journal of Nonlinear Dynamics, Psychology, and Life Sciences

“Reflecting the Impossible" Nature 460 462 (2009)

 

Jan Van Eyck:

“Evidence for mechanical copying and enlarging in Jan van Eyck’s Portrait of Niccolo Albergati”, Side-bar to D. Stork’s article, “Optics and Realism in Renaissance Art”, Scientific American, December 2004
 

Frank Gehry/ Fractal Architecture:

 

“The Search for Stress-Reducing Art: Fractal Geometry from Jackson Pollock to Frank Gehry” Invited chapter to the book Mathematics and Culture V, 239, Springer-Verlag (2006)

“Architect Reaches for the Clouds” Nature 410 18 (2001)

 

Fractal Foams:

The Art and Science of Foam Bubbles”, The Journal of Nonlinear Dynamics, Psychology, and Life Sciences 15  (2011)
 

Fractal
Crops Circles
:

“Coming Soon to Field Near You: The Physics of Crop Circle FormationPhysics World, August (2011)

“The Crop Circle Evolves” Nature 465 693 (2010)


  Oregon professor sudies crop circles. KVAL News, Aug 10, 2011.
 

BIophilic Fractals: “Biophilic Fractals and the Visual Journey of Organic Screen-savers” The Journal of Nonlinear Dynamics, Psychology, and Life Sciences 12 117 (2008)
 

Neuro-Aesthetics:
“Across The Cultural Divide” Nature 463 431 (2010)
 

Fractal Music
and Art
:

“Artistic Forms and Complexity” The Journal of Nonlinear Dynamics, Psychology, and Life Sciences 15 265 (2011)
 

Fractals in
Economics:

“Social Mood, Deep History and the Elliot Waves Principle” Fractals Research 1, ISBN 978-0-9791874-5-2 (2011)

“Mood Swings” Science 329 1149  (2010)

 

Fractal
Levy Flights
:
“Levy Flights” Invited Essay in the Encyclopedia of Non-linear Science Fitzroy-Dearborn, London, ISBN 1-57958-385-7 (2005)
 

Fractal
Creativity
:
"Organic Creativity and the Physics Within", Book published by John Benjamins Publishing Company (Amsterdam) (2013)