Toward Quantifying Ambiguities in Artistic Images

TAP 2020
Xi Wang TU Berlin & MIT
Zoya Bylinskii, Adobe Research
Aaron Hertzmann Adobe Research
Robert Pepperell Fovolab/Cardiff Metropolitan University


It has long been hypothesized that perceptual ambiguities play an important role in aesthetic experience: a work with some ambiguity engages a viewer more than one that does not. However, current frameworks for testing this theory are limited by the availability of stimuli and data collection methods. This paper presents an approach to measuring the perceptual ambiguity of a collection of images. Crowdworkers are asked to describe image content, after different viewing durations. Experiments are performed using images created with Generative Adversarial Networks, using the Artbreeder website. We show that text processing of viewer responses can provide a fine-grained way to measure and describe image ambiguities.


paper thumbnail

Xi Wang, Zoya Bylinskii, Aaron Hertzmann, and Robert Pepperell.
Toward Quantifying Ambiguities in Artistic Images.
ACM Trans. Appl. Percept. (September 2020), 10 pages.
Special issue for ACM Symposium on Applied Perception (SAP) papers.

ArXiv preprint
Code: GitHub

Link to


We thank Aude Oliva for feedback and support for this project and for hosting X.W. as a visiting student, and Joel Simon for providing data from Artbreeder. All stimuli are public domain imagery obtained from Artbreeder, created by the following users. Figure 2: guidoheinze, kent4747; Figure 3: jakritger, caincaser, strangecircus; Figure 4: desleep, jeffgiddens, thunderdog, angrytree607, portjos, strangecircus; Figure 5: jakritger, happyemil, thelindamartinez06; Figure 7: thunderdog, desleep, spihut, telmaroza.