Homo-Sapiens Visiting Museums: How Evolution Shapes Aesthetic Experiences: An Abstract
Researches have conceptualized art as an experience, where consumers enjoy art in relation to past experiences (Holbrook 1999) or in relation to multi-sensorial stimuli (Joy and Sherry Jr. 2003). Additionally, aesthetic experiences can be regarded as subjective moments mostly influenced by psychological characteristics. Aesthetic experiences result from “the interplay of emotional value with perceptual and cognitive factors (perception, attention, decision making, and action selection)” (Righi et al. 2017). For example, personality traits such as openness to experience or sensation seeking are considered as valid predictors of attractiveness towards certain forms of paintings (Chamorro-Premuzic et al. 2009). According to evolutionary psychology theory, perceptual and cognitive factors are the result of adaptive solutions to ancestral survival (Saad 2013). In this paper, we examine how aesthetic experiences can derive from adaptative tendencies.
According to Appleton (1988), landscapes are naturally assessed as potential places to live in. These places need to offer safety (a place from where you can see all the surroundings without being seen) and sustenance with natural resources (Crouch 2013). Those characteristics offer prospect and refuge opportunities (Kaplan 1987). More precisely, we should be attracted by broad, unobstructed views, vegetation and water. Therefore, Homo sapiens visiting museums should prefer landscape paintings that represent those evolutionary features (Dutton 2009). In two studies with two different samples, we identify a preference towards landscape paintings (impressionist style) evoking prospect and refuge opportunities. Certain emotions explain preferences. Positive emotions (such as optimism) are more strongly felt with paintings displaying evolutionary features while explaining painting appreciation. However, the absence of negative emotions (such as fear) does not explain painting appreciation. After reviewing 3000 auction results for 8 major landscape painters from 2000 to 2015, we observe that paintings with unobstructed views are overvalued by art buyers (auction results compared to estimate prices). Our results offer an insight on how aesthetic experiences are embodied. Besides, this emerging methodology has to be considered as the starting point of “nomological networks of cumulative evidence” that is required to validate EP results (Saad 2017).
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