Disillusionment: How Expectations Shape the Enjoyment of Early Perceptual Processes

Thorsten Michael Erle*, Sascha Topolinski

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review


Recent research has shown that perceptual processes carry intrinsic affect. But prior studies have only manipulated the occurrence of perceptual processes by presenting two different stimulus categories. The present studies go beyond this by manipulating perceptual expectations for identical stimuli. Seven experiments demonstrated that objectively identical stimuli become visually disappointing and are liked less when they violate the expectation that an intrinsically pleasant perceptual process will occur compared to when there is no perceptual expectation. These effects were specific to violations of perceptual expectations. By using between-subjects designs, participants' insight into the experimental manipulation was prevented. In combination with the use of identical stimuli across conditions, this provides the most stringent test of the idea that perception is intrinsically (un-)pleasant yet. The results are related to predictive coding frameworks and provide an explanation for why people sometimes enjoy additional perceptual effort.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)332-344
JournalExperimental Psychology
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2018
Externally publishedYes


  • Gestalt
  • illusory contours
  • affect
  • Kanizsa illusion
  • early visual processing
  • optical illusions
  • fluency


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