Empirical Investigation of an Aesthetic Experience with Art
The purpose of this chapter is to provide an overview of the contribution that recent experimental research has made to the understanding of a beholder’s aesthetic experience with visual art. The findings presented demonstrate that this experience is driven by a complex interaction among characteristics of an art work (e.g., a painting’s pictorial features, structural organization, artistic style, thematic content, and presentation format) and those of a viewer (e.g., his or her personality, personal history, cognitive abilities, knowledge about art). The influences of the physical (e.g., museum setting) and social contexts (e.g., viewing art alone or with friends) on the experience are also described. A secondary purpose of the review is to acquaint the reader with the variety of methodological procedures and techniques (e.g., eye-fixation recording techniques, psychophysiological approaches, techniques used to manipulate the structural organization of a painting) used to acquire this information. Findings are examined within the frameworks of theoretical models and concepts that explain the processes underlying a viewer’s perceptual/cognitive reactions to and aesthetic evaluation of art which occur from the initial glance at a work across the time course of an aesthetic experience with it.
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