I don't currently have any experiments investigating visual aesthetics; however, I have several research interests in this field of research including the role of processing fluency, neuroaesthetics, and "aesthetic Ahas!". (Note: I have linked to relevant articles, books, or talks I recommend if you want to learn more about the topics.) I have also given guest lectures on the topic of visual aesthetics. You can find my slides for one of those guest lectures here.
I worked with my mentee, Nicholas Liou (art history major at Northwestern University), on a few art appreciation studies. This line of work started with an experiment he performed in his research methods class! Under my mentorship, Nicholas wrote and won an Academic Year Undergraduate Research Grant to perform a series of experiments investigating the effects of different presentations of supplemental information on the appreciation of artworks in art novices. You can read more about these studies below!
Novices and art appreciation
Studies have found that novice art viewers prefer art that is figural or representative - such as portraits, realistic scenes, or still lifes - over art that is abstract or complex. However, this has profound reprecussions for educating novices on abstract art, especially because people tend to spend a very short amount of time viewing pieces of art. That is, novices are less interested in abstract art, and may also be disinterested in learning about the important historical context related to said artworks.
Supplemental information and art appreciation
Supplemental information, such as audio guides or the text that often accompanies artworks in museums, plays an important role in informing the reader about the context underlying the artwork. Thus, it is plausible that the type of information contained within these supplements can influence how we perceive and appreciate said artwork. In fact, even presenting the title of artworks can affect the understanding of artworks. Moreoever, the presentation of this information, whether in written or auditory forms, may affect how we process that information and subsequently influence our perception of art.
In Nicholas's pilot studies on the influence of the presentation of types of supplemental information and art appreciation, he found that presenting visual information about artwork in audio format was associated with greater appreciation for representative or figural artwork. Visual information presented audibly was more effective than visual information presented visually (in written form) and historical information presented either visually or audibly.
In a more recent follow-up to Nicholas's pilot study, we looked at the influence of the presentation of supplemental information on art novices' appreciation of relatively unknown abstract art. Analysis for this study is still ongoing, but preliminary results suggest that art novices appreciated abstract art more when historical supplemental information was presented. This finding is logical given that art experts, but not art novices, appreciate abstract art and experts' art history knowledge contributes to their interest in abstract art. Thus, it could be that providing important historical context regarding the creation of abstract artworks increases understanding for said artwork and subsequently increases appreciation.