On the Mutual Relation Between Art Experience and Viewing Time

David Brieber, Michael Forster, Helmut Leder

Psychological models conceive aesthetic experiences as a sequence of cognitive and emotional processes unfolding over time. Previous studies focused either on effects of presentation time on art experience or on effects of art experience on viewing time. Here, we examined both directions. Three groups of participants (undergrad psychology students) viewed artworks in the lab on 30-in screens in 2 sessions separated by 1 week. They rated how much they appreciated, understood, and wanted to see the artworks for longer, as well as the artwork’s complexity. In Session 1, depending on the group, artworks were presented either for 5, 17, or 30 seconds. In Session 2, participants viewed the same artworks again; though this time they could freely choose for how long. Linear mixed-model analyses revealed that the different presentation times affected art appreciation: surprisingly, participants viewing the artworks for the medium presentation time of 17 seconds awarded highest appreciation scores. The extent to which participants wanted to see the artworks longer linearly decreased from 5 to 30 seconds presentation time. Visual complexity was only marginally affected and understanding ratings were unaffected by presentation time. Finally, self-paced viewing time in Session 2 could be predicted from all art experience measures from Session 1, except understanding. In sum, this study shows that longer is not always better: highest appreciation scores were found at intermediate presentation times. In addition, what the beholder initially appreciates, wants to see for longer (and marginally what is complex), indeed predicts increases in viewing time at a second encounter.

Vienna Cognitive Science Hub, Department of Cognition, Emotion, and Methods in Psychology
Psychology of Aesthetics, Creativity, and the Arts
Publication date
Peer reviewed
Austrian Fields of Science 2012
501001 General psychology, 501011 Cognitive psychology, 501006 Experimental psychology, 501026 Psychology of perception
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