Art expertise in construing meaning of representational and abstract artworks

Bimler, David L. and Snellock, Megan and Paramei, Galina V. (2019) Art expertise in construing meaning of representational and abstract artworks. Acta Psychologica, 192. pp. 11-22. ISSN 0001-6918

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Aesthetic appraisal of artwork can present the observer with visual problems to solve in the process of grasping its meaning and ‘visual rightness’ (i.e. “good” structure; Locher, 2003), with an elaboration on perceptual, semantic and affective dimensions (e.g. Marković, 2011). Thus observer's expertise is a factor in aesthetic appraisal. To examine the influence of art training on the aesthetic response, and to clarify the nature of the Representational/Abstract distinction, 30 Experts and 33 Non-experts (Art and Psychology students, respectively) were asked to rate 24 paintings on six affective and affective-evaluative semantic differential scales. Stimuli were images of paintings from the period 1900–1935, 12 broadly Representational and 12 broadly Abstract. Relative to Non-experts, Experts rated Abstract artworks as more Interesting, Beautiful, Informative and Sophisticated, distinguishing them less markedly from Representational artworks. Aggregate Expert and Non-expert ratings, processed by factor analysis, resulted in a two-factor solution. The first factor, contrasting Abstract and Representational artworks, appeared more salient for Non-experts. The second factor, Cool–Warm, separating vibrantly-colored paintings from those with a blue-dominated/dull palette, was more salient for Experts. While Non-experts exaggerated differences between Abstract and Representational paintings, Experts appraised these two types of art similarly, attending more to artwork collative properties. We conclude that appreciation of art by Experts involves ‘cognitive mastery’ (Leder, Belke, Oeberst, & Augustin, 2004), i.e. more complex, cues-based visual schemata which equip them with more sophisticated strategies for analysing collative properties and semantics of an artwork while parsing ‘visual rightness’ to unfold its visual meaning.

Item Type: Article
Additional Information and Comments: NOTICE: this is the author’s version of a work that was accepted for publication in Acta Psychologica. Changes resulting from the publishing process, such as peer review, editing, corrections, structural formatting, and other quality control mechanisms may not be reflected in this document. Changes may have been made to this work since it was submitted for publication. A definitive version was subsequently published in Acta Psychologica, Vol 192, January 2019,
Faculty / Department: Faculty of Science > Psychology
Depositing User: Matthew Adams
Date Deposited: 15 Nov 2018 13:47
Last Modified: 29 Jun 2020 09:40

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