Appreciation of art is measurable – sciencedaily


Is it your own innate taste or what you’ve learned that decides whether you like a work of art? Both, according to an Australian-Norwegian research team.

Have you ever seen a painting or a play that left you with no feeling, when a friend thought it was beautiful and meaningful? Experts have discussed for years the feasibility of art appreciation research and what should be considered.

Neuroscientists believe that the biological processes that take place in the brain decide whether or not you like a work of art. Historians and philosophers say this point of view is far too narrow. They believe that what you know about the artist’s intentions, when the work was created, and other external factors, also affects how you experience a work of art.

Building bridges

A new model which combines both the historical approach and the psychological approach has been developed.

“We believe that both traditions are equally important, although incomplete. We want to show that they complement each other,” says Rolf Reber, professor of psychology at the University of Bergen, Norway. With Nicolas Bullot, Doctor of Philosophy at Macquarie University in Australia, he developed a new model to help us understand the appreciation of art. The results were published in ‘Behavioral and Brain Sciences’ and are commented on by 27 scientists from different disciplines.

“Neuroscientists often measure brain activity to find out how much a candidate likes a work of art, without investigating whether they actually understand the work. This is insufficient, because artistic understanding also affects assessment,” explains Reber.

Revealing experience

“We know from previous research that a painting that is difficult – but possible – to interpret, is felt to be more meaningful than a painting that we look at and understand immediately. The painter Eugène Delacroix used it to represent war. . Joseph Mallord William Turner did the same in ‘Snow storm’. When you have to struggle to understand, you can have an eye-opening experience, which the brain enjoys, ”says Reber.

He hopes other scientists will use the Australian-Norwegian model.
“By measuring brain activity, asking test subjects about their thoughts and reactions, and mapping their artistic knowledge, it is possible to gain new and exciting insight into what makes people appreciate the good works of art. The model can be used for visual arts, music, theater and literature, ”says Reber.

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Materials provided by University of Bergen. Note: Content can be changed for style and length.

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