The effects of visual context and individual differences on perception and evaluation of modern art and graffiti art.

Andreas Gartus, Nicolas Tobias Klemer, Helmut Leder

Traditionally, artworks are seen as autonomous objects that stand (or should stand) on their own. However, at least since the emergence of Conceptual Art in the 1920s and Pop Art in the 1960s, art lacks any distinctive perceptual features that define it as such. Art, therefore, cannot be defined without reference to its context. Some studies have shown that context affects the evaluation of artworks, and that specific contexts (street for graffiti art, museum for modern art) elicit specific effects (Gartus & Leder, 2014). However, it is yet unclear how context changes perception and appreciation processes. In our study we measured eye-movements while participants (64 psychology undergraduates, 48% women) perceived and evaluated beauty, interest, emotional valence, as well as perceived style for modern art and graffiti art embedded into either museum or street contexts. For modern art, beauty and interest ratings were higher in a museum than in a street context, but context made no difference for the ratings of graffiti art. Importantly, we also found an interaction of context and individual interest in graffiti for beauty and interest ratings, as well as for number of fixations. Analyses of eye-movements also revealed that viewing times were in general significantly longer in museum than in street contexts. We conclude that context can have an important influence on aesthetic appreciation. However, some effects depend also on the style of the artworks and the individual art interests of the viewers.

Department of Cognition, Emotion, and Methods in Psychology
Acta Psychologica
Publication date
Peer reviewed
Austrian Fields of Science 2012
501001 General psychology, 501006 Experimental psychology, 501011 Cognitive psychology, 501026 Psychology of perception
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