Contextual Effects on Art


In line with current trends in psychology that conceive human experiences as strongly context dependent, we strive to uncover contextual factors that influence how we experience art. This contextual dependency is studied at different levels: The artwork (title information), the perceiver (false information), and the environment (museum vs. lab, contextual fit, art context).

Our main findings were:

·         In the museum art is experienced more intensely and remembered better (Brieber, Nadal, & Leder, 2015; Brieber, Nadal, Leder, & Rosenberg, 2014)

·         Easy-to-understand art and moderate effort in understanding (manipulated through title information) is liked (Gerger & Leder, 2015)

·         When an image is seen as art, positive reactions are attenuated but negative reactions are not (Gerger, Leder, & Kremer, 2014)

·         False information about what other people like influences what participants liked. Participants liked what close and desired groups liked, but what an undesired group disliked (Lauring et al., 2016)


Additionally, we are interested in the universality of aesthetic experiences. We test how strongly individual differences between perceivers influence aesthetic experiences. Given that contemporary art is often seen as controversial it is quite timely to study these effects. To investigate the interplay of contextual fit and individual differences we visually embedded controversial artworks (modern art and graffiti art) in museum and street scenes (Gartus, Klemer, & Leder, 2015; Gartus & Leder, 2014). We found an interaction of context and individual interest for several dimensions of aesthetic evaluation.


Brieber, D., Nadal, M., & Leder, H. (2015). In the white cube: Museum context enhances the valuation and memory of art. Acta Psychologica, 154, 36-42. doi: 10.1016/j.actpsy.2014.11.004

Brieber, D., Nadal, M., Leder, H., & Rosenberg, R. (2014). Art in time and space: Context modulates the relation between art experience and viewing time. PLoS ONE, 9, e99019. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0099019

Gartus, A., Klemer, N., & Leder, H. (2015). The effects of visual context and individual differences on perception and evaluation of modern art and graffiti art. Acta Psychologica, 156, 64-76. doi: 10.1016/j.actpsy.2015.01.005

Gartus, A., & Leder, H. (2014). The white cube of the museum versus the gray cube of the street: The role of context in aesthetic evaluations. Psychology of Aesthetics, Creativity, and the Arts, 8, 311-320. doi: 10.1037/a0036847

Gerger, G., & Leder, H. (2015). Titles change the aesthetic appreciations of paintings. Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, 9. doi: 10.3389/fnhum.2015.00464

Gerger, G., Leder, H., & Kremer, A. (2014). Context effects on emotional and aesthetic evaluations of artworks and IAPS pictures. Acta Psychologica, 151, 174-183. doi: 10.1016/j.actpsy.2014.06.008

Lauring, J. O., Pelowski, M., Forster, M., Gondan, M., Ptito, M., & Kupers, R. (2016). Well, if They Like it . . . Effects of Social Groups’ Ratings and Price Information on the Appreciation of Art. Psychology of Aesthetics, Creativity, and the Arts, 10, 344-359. doi: 10.1037/aca0000063




Michael Forster:

Andreas Gartus:

Helmut Leder: