Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)


College of Humanities and Social Sciences



Thesis Sponsor/Dissertation Chair/Project Chair

Paul J. Locher

Committee Member

Debra A. Zellner

Committee Member

Julian P. Keenan


The present study recorded the eye movements of individuals as they scanned reproductions of the original and altered versions of abstract paintings by Piet Mondrian. These artworks were composed of different sized colored areas made up of the primary colors, red, blue, or yellow. Each original consisted of vertical and horizontal black lines extending to the edge of the pictorial field or to another black line and three solid color areas on a white background. Changing the color of the largest colored area from red to either blue or yellow created the altered versions. It was hypothesized that altering the largest colored areas of these compositions would influence the scanning strategies used by the participants and effect the location of the perceived balance center of the composition, defined as the point about which all elements of a composition are anchored and appear stable. The scanning strategies were analyzed by superimposing a 25cell grid on each stimulus and observing the number of fixations directed to each grid cell location. Percentage of dwell time spent in each grid cell location was also recorded. It was found that for the majority of paintings, significantly more time was spent viewing the original versions compared to the altered versions, evinced by a larger percentage of dwell time spent in the grid cell locations of the original. However, altering the color of the largest colored area did not significantly effect the location of the perceived balance center of the composition or the distribution of fixations across the pictorial field. The results indicate that regardless of the color of the largest colored area in the alteration, a change in the balance structure influenced the time an individual spends viewing a composition. Results are discussed in terms of the visual rightness theory of picture perception.

File Format


Included in

Psychology Commons