Gustave Caillebotte was a painter, a collector of some of his colleagues’ most renowned works, and a major force in the creation of the late 19th century French Impressionist canon. Six studies are presented as a naturalistic investigation of the effects of mere exposure to images in his collection and to those matched to them. The probabilities of cultural exposure to the 132 stimulus images were indexed by the frequencies of their separate appearances in Cornell University library books—a total of 4,232 times in 980 different books. Across the studies, adult preferences were correlated with differences in image frequencies, but not with recognition, complexity, or prototypicality judgments; children’s preferences were not correlated with frequency. Prior cultural exposure also interacted with experimental exposure in predictable ways. The results suggest that mere exposure helps to maintain an artistic canon.
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This research began as a set of interests accrued in 1993, when I was in Paris, supported by a John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Fellowship, and later, in the summer of 1994, during the Caillebotte centennial. I thank Claudia Lazzaro for being the final, if unwitting, impetus for this study in the summer of 2000—again, in Paris—and for many wonderful hours of discussion about art and canons; Justine Zee Kwok for beginning aspects of this project as a feasibility study, for many hours of library work, and for help with initial assembly of the databases; Nicholas Epley for initial guidance through the mere exposure literature; John Bargh and Arthur Reber for encouragement and comments; Andrea Coby Riddle, the teachers, and students at the Elizabeth Ann Clune Montessori School of Ithaca for their help with Study 3; David Dunning and Dennis Regan for suggestions leading to Studies 4 and 5; and many colleagues for their friendly cajoling, forcing me to design and carry out Study 6. A version of Study 1 was presented at the 42nd Annual Meeting of the Psychonomic Society, November 2001, in Orlando, FL.
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Cutting, J.E. Gustave Caillebotte, French Impressionism, and mere exposure. Psychonomic Bulletin & Review 10, 319–343 (2003). https://doi.org/10.3758/BF03196493
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