Running head: POSITIVE ART
Artistic expression and appreciation as an exemplary vehicle for flourishing
Dr. Tim Lomas, University of East London, School of Psychology, email@example.com
Note: This article may not exactly replicate the final published version. It is not the copy of record.
Running head: POSITIVE ART
The relevance of the arts to wellbeing has been recognised within clinical fields, as reflected
in therapeutic forms based on various art modalities, from music to drama therapy. However,
there has hitherto been little appreciation in fields such as positive psychology of the broader
potential of the arts as a vehicle for flourishing and fulfilment. As such, this paper proposes
the creation of ‘positive art’ as a field encompassing theory and research concerning the
wellbeing value of art. To show the scope and possibilities of this proposed field, the paper
provides an indicative summary of literature pertaining to four major art forms: visual art,
music, literature and drama. Moreover, the paper identifies five main positive outcomes that
are consistently found in the literature across all these forms: sense-making, enriching
experience, aesthetic appreciation, entertainment, and bonding. The paper aims to encourage
a greater focus on the arts in fields like positive psychology, enabling science to more fully
understand and appreciate the positive power of the arts.
Keywords: art; drama; literature; music; wellbeing; flourishing
Running head: POSITIVE ART
Since positive psychology was inaugurated in 1998, numerous subfields have emerged
focusing on particular aspects of flourishing. These include applied fields such as positive
education (Seligman et al., 2009), physiological disciplines like positive neuroscience (Urry
et al., 2004), therapeutic paradigms such as positive clinical psychology (Wood & Tarrier,
2010), and socially-focused concerns like positive social psychology (Lomas, 2015).
However, among all this cross-disciplinary innovation, relatively little attention has been paid
to an aspect of life that is intimately connected to flourishing: the arts. As Tarnas (1991)
elucidates, artistic expression and appreciation have been a constant throughout human
history, valued for reasons ranging from the facilitation of emotional ecstasy, to the creation
of narratives that give meaning to existence. Indeed, Tarnas argues that religious and spiritual
traditions – which have addressed humanity’s deepest existential needs over recent millennia
– have been thoroughly meditated through art forms, from literary parables to iconographic
paintings. Furthermore, since the gradual secularisation of Western societies from the 17th
Century onwards, Tarnas suggests it has increasingly fallen to art alone to meet these deep
existential and spiritual needs.
As such, this paper advocates for the creation of a subfield of ‘positive arts,’ focusing
on the relevance of the arts to flourishing. Of course, there is already a great deal of relevant
work dispersed throughout various academic fields. However, the value of forging a specific
‘positive arts’ paradigm is that it can provide an interdisciplinary conceptual space where
research and theory relating to the positive impact of the arts can be considered as a whole.
Indeed, the rationale for, and value of, the creation of this paradigm arguably mirrors that of
positive psychology more generally. When Martin Seligman inaugurated the field in 1998, it
was based on his contention that ‘psychology as usual’ had generally been preoccupied with
disorder and dysfunction, and had not focused on topics such as happiness in a systematic,
empirical way (Seligman & Csikszentmihalyi, 2000). However, this claim was subsequently
challenged, not least by humanistic psychologists (e.g., Bohart & Greening, 2001), who
argued that such topics had been investigated empirically for years by scholars working
across different sub-fields within psychology. As such, positive psychology was accused of
carving a professional niche for itself, by overlooking prior research, and by promulgating a
‘separatist’ agenda (Held, 2004).
However, while there may have been some validity to these claims, the subsequent
rise to prominence of positive psychology indicates that it did fulfil some professional and
conceptual need within psychology. In terms of professional needs, Linley and Joseph (2004,
p.4) suggested that the field, while not a new speciality per se, offered a ‘collective identity’
Running head: POSITIVE ART
unifying researchers interested in ‘the brighter sides of human nature.’ Likewise, while topics
such as hope and optimism had been studied previously by scholars in disparate fields, part of
the appeal of positive psychology was that it created a conceptual space where these diverse
topics – all of which shared the ‘family resemblance’ (Wittgenstein, 1953) of pertaining to
wellbeing in some way – could be brought together and analysed collectively. Arguably,
then, the proposed paradigm of ‘positive arts’ may serve a similar value. It can potentially
offer a professional identity (or one particular strand of identity) for researchers interested in
exploring the intersection between the arts and wellbeing. Likewise, it can provide a
conceptual space where diverse empirical and theoretical work at this intersection – which of
course has already been on-going for years – can be fruitfully integrated.
There are many existing areas of research to draw on. For instance, most artistic
modalities have been harnessed in therapeutic contexts, helping to ameliorate physical and
mental illness, spanning art therapy (Reynolds et al., 2000), music therapy (Ruud, 2008),
singing therapy (Olderog Millard & Smith, 1989), dance/movement therapy (Loman, 2005),
bibliotherapy (Gregory et al., 2004), writing therapy (Pizarro, 2004), poetry therapy
(Connolly Baker & Mazza, 2004), drama therapy (Schnee, 1996), and even comedy therapy
(Crawford & Caltabiano, 2011). Work within these areas is certainly encompassed by
positive art. However, the proposed field is not limited to the use of artistic modalities in
treating disorder and distress. As per the ethos of positive psychology generally, positive art
includes analysis of the role of artistic expression and appreciation in flourishing – which is
not the same as an absence of pathology (Keyes, 2005) – and its potential in helping people
lead more fulfilling lives.
The paper will focus on four broad areas of the arts: visual art; music; literature; and
drama. In order to gather the material for this paper, a quasi-systematic review of relevant
literature was conducted (cf. Lomas, 2016). It was quasi-systematic in that one could not
hope to systematically review every relevant paper, since this would have been impractical
and unmanageable. Nevertheless, there was some systematisation to the process. Firstly, in
terms of collating relevant material, a rigorous search was conducted using Google scholar.
Three separate searches were conducted for each of the four art forms (art, music, literature,
and drama), in each case pairing the word (e.g., ‘music’) with three different search terms
(‘wellbeing,’ ‘happiness,’ and ‘flourishing’). As such, 12 separate searches were conducted in
total. For each of these 12 searches, the abstracts of the first 50 items (i.e., the first 5 pages of
the search result) were read in detail, as were the papers themselves (if accessible). As such,
Running head: POSITIVE ART
around 300 abstracts were reviewed (as many papers were duplicated across the 12 searches),
and about 170 papers.
Then, in terms of reviewing and interpreting this material, the analytic process was
based on grounded theory (GT) (Strauss & Corbin, 1998). GT is a qualitative methodology
designed to allow theory to ‘emerge’ inductively from data, featuring three main stages: open
coding, axial coding, and selective coding. First, open coding involves examining the data –
which in this study were the abstracts and papers obtained, as outlined above – for emergent
themes. Thus, as I read through the papers and abstracts, I would note down themes as they
occurred to me, a process which generated around 30 separate themes. The next stage is axial
coding, in which themes are compared with each other, and clustered into categories on the
basis of conceptual similarity. As a result of this process, five main categories were
identified, each of which constituted a broad type of positive outcome relating to artistic
expression or appreciation: (a) sense-making (enabling people to comprehend existence and
find meaning in it); (b) enriching experience (facilitating new or elevated emotional states);
(c) aesthetic appreciation (enjoyment of beauty or skill); (d) entertainment (pleasure and fun);
and (e) bonding (connecting with others through art). The final GT stage is selective coding,
in which a single ‘core’ category is identified, which in this case was wellbeing. Attempts are
then made with GT to elucidate how the main categories relate to this core category, thus
telling a ‘narrative’ which makes sense of the data.
Before exploring these five categories below, it is worth noting that other scholars
may have interpreted this literature in other ways, possibly resulting in different categories.
Indeed, it would have been possible for me to have organised the analysis differently myself.
In qualitative research, there is a commitment to ‘reflexivity,’ in which scholars endeavour to
bring transparency to their methodological and analytic choices, and to reflect critically on
how these choices were influenced by their own personal bias and ‘situatedness’ (Cutcliffe,
2003). Thus, reflecting critically on my own interpretative decisions, I recognise that I could
have possibly identified other categories beyond the five included here. Indeed, in the
analytic process, two other categories did suggest themselves, but were both discounted, for
separate reasons. Firstly, there were certain themes which were suggestive of a category of
cognitive development (e.g., the cultivation of critical thought through activities such as
reading); however, I felt that this category was only tangentially and indirectly related to
wellbeing. Secondly, I contemplated a category of physical health, since there were a number
of themes relating to this, particularly in relation to modalities like music (e.g., singing) and
drama (e.g., dance); however, these themes did not stretch across all four art forms, and so
Running head: POSITIVE ART
health was also not included as a distinct category. Nevertheless, the themes that would have
comprised these two categories are still included in the analysis below, but have simply been
subsumed within the five selected categories.
The presentation below takes each art form in turn, exploring in sequence how it
relates to each of the five categories identified above. Thus, for each art form, the paper
explores the relevance of that particular modality to wellbeing, doing so by selectively
highlighting indicative research and interventions. One must preface the presentation with the
caveat that not all people find art rewarding, a ‘condition’ that has been operationalised as
‘physical anhedonia’ (Nusbaum et al., 2015). Nevertheless, most people can arguably derive
at least some value from art (in one form or another), as this paper hopes to show. While it is
clearly beyond the scope of any paper to comprehensively cover all relevant work, this paper
nevertheless shows the scope of possibilities afforded by the arts, highlighting their
considerable potential in facilitating flourishing.
Visual art is used here to cover the multitude of forms of visual expression that people have
created over the centuries, from painting to photography. The urge towards self-expression
using visual media is a constant in human history, with the earliest works of art dating back at
least 40,000 years (Than, 2012). Speculations on the significance of such art range from these
being petitionary representations of desired outcomes, e.g., fertility (Prins & Hall, 1994), to
vehicles for shamanic mystical experience (Lewis-Williams, 1995). Subsequently, visual art
has been integral to human culture, particularly in providing a potent medium through which
religious/spiritual traditions have communicated their teachings and inspired their adherents
(Jensen, 2013). In more recent centuries, as religiosity has waned in parts of the world, visual
art has continued to be culturally vital, including as a vehicle for some of the existential and
spiritual yearnings that were previously channeled through religion (Tarnas, 1991). Indeed,
De Botton and Armstrong (2013) argue that galleries and museums are the new ‘cathedrals’
of the secular age: awe-inspiring buildings that facilitate collective ‘worship’ of objects that
are sources of reverence, value and meaning. The value of visual art is manifold, and the five
main positive outcomes identified as relating to art– sense-making, enriching experience,
aesthetic appreciation, entertainment, and bonding – certainly apply here.
Beginning with sense-making, this refers to the way art can help people process and
understand their existence (Proulx & Inzlicht, 2012). As with all artistic modalities here, we
can approach sense-making from two perspectives: appreciation and expression. First, even if
one does not create art oneself, its contemplation can facilitate sense-makings efforts. It has
Running head: POSITIVE ART
been argued that the power of great art resides partly in its ability to articulate messages of
existential importance and provide an opportunity to reflect on these (Silvia, 2005). Consider,
for example, the role played by religious iconography in propagating religious teachings,
providing a visual articulation of theological doctrine (Jensen, 2013). Alternatively, more
recently, people have found symbolic meaning – albeit dark and disturbing – in the fractured
portraits of Picasso, which have reflected the chaos and fragmentation of the 20th Century
(Tarnas, 1991). The ‘effort after meaning’ theory holds that the reward of viewing art stems
precisely from the act of trying to interpret and decode it (Russell, 2003). The potential for
sense-making is perhaps even stronger in self-created art. This is a key premise of art therapy,
in which art creation is used to help people process distress (e.g., trauma), and perhaps to
even find some meaning in their suffering (Reynolds & Lim, 2007). This mode of self-
exploration is particularly valuable for people who may struggle to express themselves in
language, such as older adults with dementia (Jonas-Simpons & Mitchell, 2005).
These sense-making qualities of art are augmented by the second main positive
outcome, enriching experience. This refers to the potential for art to add new depth, texture,
and colour to reality, to open new emotional and existential vistas. Perhaps the most famous
example is the 1968 ‘Earthrise’ photograph, taken by Apollo 8 astronauts Frank Borman and
William Anders. In showing earth as a ‘fragile oasis’ in the vastness of space, and moreover a
‘biosphere of immense diversity,’ the photo is credited with raising humanity’s consciousness
of their precarious and contingent existence, fueling the fledgling environmental movement
(Henry & Taylor, 2009, p.194); as such, Williamson (2006, p.11) suggests this single shot is
‘the most significant legacy of the Space Age.’ The power of visual art in this regard is not
limited to epochal moments like Earthrise. Indeed, the emergence of new technologies such
as the smartphone have democratized art production, enabling the general population to
explore and document aspects of their lives that may have hitherto gone unnoticed and/or
forgotten, using photo and video. These technologies have been used by researchers and
clinicians to help people explore and understand issues relating to their lived experience, such
as adolescents with chronic health problems (Rich et al., 2000).
The third main value of art concerns aesthetic appreciation. The potential for beauty
to evoke positive mental states – explored in depth by the philosophical field of aesthetics – is
beginning to be recognized in positive psychology, with ‘appreciation of beauty and
excellence’ being one of the character strengths in Peterson and Seligman’s (2004) ‘values-
in-action’ taxonomy. Indeed, art can be a powerful route to some of the more elevated states
of wellbeing. For example, Keltner and Haidt (2003) discuss the significance of the complex
Running head: POSITIVE ART
emotional state of awe, in which one can be moved profoundly by experiences that challenge
one’s understanding of the world. They argue that works of art have the power to induce this
state, and thus can facilitate transformative experiences. At a less rarified level, the appeal of
aesthetics is attested to by the popularity of galleries – the National Gallery in London alone
attracted nearly 600,000 visits in 2014-2015, for instance (Department for Culture, Media &
Sport, 2015) – and by the ubiquity of phenomena like home decoration (Melchionne, 1998),
and the prevalence of blogs devoted to aesthetic appreciation (e.g., www.patternity.org).
Similarly, the value of aesthetics to wellbeing is beginning to be recognized in occupational
settings (see e.g., Dalke et al. (2006) on the impact of colour schemes in a hospital on the
wellbeing of staff and patients).
The fourth key positive outcome is entertainment, i.e., pleasure or interest through
appreciating or expressing art. Engaging with visual art may be enjoyable for diverse reasons,
from a pleasant distraction, to an engrossing intellectual experience (Funch, 1997). The
wellbeing value of appreciation was highlighted by Clow and Fredhoi (2006), who found that
visits to galleries can help reduce cortisol and self-reported stress. The creative act can be
enjoyable too. For instance, artistic pursuits are effective at engendering flow, a state of
mental absorption identified by Csikszentmihalyi (1990) that is consistently rated by people
as among their most valued life experiences. Similarly, creative self-expression can satisfy
other key psychological needs, such freedom and autonomy (Reynolds, 2010). Moreover, the
benefits of creativity are not only within reach of people who self-identify as being ‘artists’;
in addition to the volumous literature on the value of art therapy in treating mental illness
(Reynolds et al., 2000), there are emergent art-based interventions for use in the community
to promote wellbeing, like Swindells et al.’s (2013) initiative for older adults. Moreover, such
interventions can impact on other aspects of wellbeing, particularly in at-risk populations:
Renton et al. (2012) found that an art intervention with people from lower socioeconomic
groups (who tend to have less engagement with the arts) had positive changes in other areas
of life (e.g., health behaviours).
Finally, the fifth main positive outcome is bonding with others. This can occur at
varying levels of scale, from a general sense of interconnectedness to intimate relationships
forged through shared expereinces of art. With the former, the power of art to crystallise
some sense of shared humanity ranges from the kind of global connection sparked by the
Earthrise picture (Henry & Taylor, 2009), to more local instances of artists contributing to a
national or regional identity, e.g., as Andy Worhol did in New York (Currid, 2007). At a
more intimate level, art offers opportunities for interaction: for instance, Reynolds (2010)
Running head: POSITIVE ART
reports that an art-making intervention for older adults was highly valued for facilitating
rewarding relationships. We might also mention the emergent intersection of creative arts and
social media, as highlighted by the rise of art-based (e.g., photography) platforms such as
Instagram, the world’s fastest growing social media site in 2015 (Mander, 2015). Also
relevant is the rise in social computer gaming, such as ‘massively multiplayer online games’;
these involve interactive immersion in a ‘rich, textured graphical framework,’ and so are an
example of relationships being forged through engagement in art (Thomas & Brown, 2009).
The latter examples also illustrate how visual arts not only continue to be relevant in the 21st
Century, but actually help spearhead the emergence of new technologies and phenomena.
As with visual art, music is intrinsic to the history of humankind. Following Darwin’s (1871)
speculations on the topic, ethnomusicologists have noted the common evolutionary links
between music and language, referred to as ‘musilanguage’ theory; for instance, Morley
(2002) suggests this muscial protolanguage emerged from tonal affective primate calls
between 1.6 million and 50,000 years ago. Over subsequent millenia, while evolving into its
own branch of communication, separate from conventional language, music has remained at
the heart of culture. It has served as a vehicle for preserving and transmitting oral histories
and cultural folk memories (Berry, 1988). It has been central to many religious/spiritual
traditions, with functions ranging from bonding people together in song, to facilitating
‘altered’ states of spiritual ecstasy (Sylvan, 2002). It has figured in esoterical philosophies,
e.g., the Pythagorean school, which connected harmonic properties to mathematical ratios
that structure the universe (Tarnas, 1991). It has played a key symbolic and ceremonial role
in civic institutions and processes, from protest songs inspiring progressive movements, to
the significance of the national anthem in the creation of nation states (Gilboa & Bodner,
2009). Finally, music matters to many people on a personal level today, with a majority of
adults deeming it ‘important’ in their lives (Bonneville-Roussy et al., 2013).
Starting with sense-making, as with visual art, music can serve as a prism through
which complex life events can be digested and interpreted. In religious contexts, inchoate
spiritual feelings can be given voice though song, enabling worshippers to articulate the
emotional currents flowing through them (Sylvan, 2002). Similarly, most cultures have used
song to create foundational myths and stories; indeed, before written language, such songs
were essential to these being passed through the generations (Berry, 1988). In a related way
today, national anthems can be powerful vehicles in forging a sense of national identity
(Gilboa & Bodner, 2009). The potential of music in helping people make sense of who they
Running head: POSITIVE ART
are is perhaps even more pervasive and powerful on a personal level, particularly for younger
age groups. Analyses of youth culture highlight the intense importance music can play at this
age, where factors like affiliation to musical subcultures and activities like gig attendence
play a central role in the formation of identity (Bennett, 2000). Similarly, many people draw
on songs to help them understand their own emotional dynamics and make sense of their
lived experience (North et al., 2000). As with the other art forms, creating music oneself can
be particularly helpful in this regard; indeed, this is one premise of music therapy, especially
‘resource-oriented therapy,’ in which patients are helped to write songs (thus drawing on their
own ‘resources’) to help them process their issues (Ruud, 2008).
Music is especially potent with regard to the second main postive outcome: enriching
experience. Indeed, it has been argued that, of all art forms, music is particularly powerful at
inducing intense emotions and elevating listeners to spiritual/existential peaks. In philosophy,
Nietzsche (1872) argued in The Birth of Tragedy from the Spirit of Music that through music
modern humans could reattain the balance (lost since Classical Greece) of the Apollonian and
Dionysian aspects of life. Music has likewise been deployed by religious/spiritual traditions
to help people enter rarefied or unusual states of trance and ecstasy (Leuba, 2013). Here there
is often an emphasis on rhythmic music, accompanied by dance, in which the body is aligned
with the music as a vehicle for self-transcendence (Highwater, 1992). From a more
contemporary perspective, there is an emergent psychobiological literature on why music is
able to elicit the ‘chills’ (shivers down the spine); this work tends to focus on neuroaffective
circuitry involved in pleasure/reward, e.g., endorphin bursts combined with the type of
galvanic skin response prompted by emotional stimuli (Panksepp & Bernatzky, 2002). From
a musicology perspective, the chills are seen as being elicited by phenomena such as
‘enharmonic change,’ i.e., when a note stays constant, but is re-contextualised harmonically
(Sloboda, 1991). The potency of music to evoke strong emotions, often in somewhat
forseeable ways, means that people often use it strategically to alleviate dysphoric moods and
more generally self-regulate thir emotions, which Ruud (2008) refers to as ‘musical self-
Our third key outcome, aesthetic appreciation, refers to enjoyment of beauty (in the
music) and/or skill (in the composers or players). The value of musical appreciation has been
recognised in liberal arts education, where it is seen as a gateway to more general aesthetic
appreciation (Goolsby, 1984). Its value in other developmental respects is also beginning to
be acknowledged. For instance, since Rauscher et al. (1993) found that students who listened
to a Mozart sonata performed better on cognitive tasks, there has been interest in the so-called
Running head: POSITIVE ART
‘Mozart effect’ (the impact of music listening on cognitive development). While the potential
of music in this regard may be somewhat overhyped (Črnčec et al., 2006), meta-analyses
suggest there may be some validity to the idea (Hetland, 2000). Likewise, an enriched sound
environment via music exposure can assist neurological cognitive rehabilitation following a
stroke (Särkämö et al., 2008). Given the value of music appreciation, there are efforts to
create interventions to enhance aesthetic responses, such as through mindfulness meditation
(Diaz, 2013). Aesthetic appreciation has also been harnessed in clinical settings: for instance,
Baker et al. (2007) used music therapy for substance use disorder, where music was used to
elicit the kinds of positive emotions that patients would normally seek through substance use.
Music appreciation extends to accompanying factors such as lyricism, which is where music
intersects with the third great art form here, literature. Indeed, there are scholars who deem
the very best lyric writers to be equal to the literary greats, such as Christopher Ricks (2011),
who argues that Bob Dylan’s lyricism is on a par with the poetry of John Keats.
Aesthetics are a component of the fourth main outcome, entertainment, which also
encompasses other pleasures associated with music. Here we might take the opportunity to
highlight the unique value of dancing. As an expressive outlet intrinsically allied to music,
dancing also taps into the positive factors outlined above. It has a role in sense-making,
including as a vehicle for realizing and expressing one’s cultural/personal identity (Grau &
Jordan, 2002), and in a clinical context (i.e., dance/movement therapy) as a way for people to
process trauma (Loman, 2005). It can enrich experience, e.g., eliciting rarefied states as part
of religious/spiritual rituals (Highwater, 1992), and it can evoke aesthetic appreciation, as
exemplified by the appeal of forms such as ballet (Bond, 1987). Additionally, perhaps of all
the art forms, dance has direct physical health benefits as a form of exercise, e.g., increasing
cardiovascular fitness (Burkhardt & Brennan, 2012). However, of particular relevance here is
dance’s particular ‘fun factor’; indeed, Lindqvist (2001) suggests dance is the closest many
adults come to recapturing the freedom and joys that characterize childhood play. This fun
factor means dance can appeal to hard-to-reach or at-risk populations, such as adolescent
females, who may resist other forms of art and sport (Burkhardt & Rhodes, 2012). Dance is
also a potent vehicle for experiencing flow (Hefferon & Ollis, 2006), as is listening to and
playing music more generally (Bakker, 2005).
Finally, music is a powerful source of bonding. As noted above, music is a resource
around which people can form valued collective identities, e.g., via affiliation to musical
‘scenes,’ not only in adolescence (Bennett, 2000), but throughout life (Bennett, 2006). The
bonding opportunities offered by music is particularly potent at live performances. The
Running head: POSITIVE ART
potential for music to evoke collective emotionality, e.g., euphoria, came to prominence in
the 1960s with ‘Beatlemania,’ which was sometime euphemised as ‘adolescent enthusiasm’
(Taylor, 1966). From political perspective, Dowdy (2007) draws on Arendt’s (1958) notion
of ‘acting in concert’ to suggest that hip-hop shows enable the co-creation (by performers and
audience) of ‘a space of interactive engagement’ in which ‘co-ordinated political practice’
(e.g., contesting dominant cultural values) becomes possible (p.75). The potential for
collective bonding is perhaps even stronger in playing music. Lutz (2009) argues that playing
music together can facilitate ‘collective flow,’ also known as ‘participatory consciousness.’
Likewise, Tonneijck et al. (2008) show that choral singing is valued in part for engendering a
state of intersubjective ‘wholeness’ that is conducive to wellbeing.
Our third great art form here is literature, an overarching term covering all language-based
‘text,’ from oral tales to religious scripture to poetry to the novel. As with visual art and
music, literature has been integral to the development of humanity. The earliest extant works
of literature hail from around 4,000 years ago, such as the Sumerian Epic of Gilgamesh, in
which stories possibly dating back to the Third Dynasty of Ur (circa 2,100 BC) were brought
together as a single narrative and engraved on tablets around 1,800 BC (Maier, 1997). Even
after this point, literature continued to mostly be transmitted orally, such as the Vedas (the
founding texts of Hinduism), which were composed between 1,500 and 500 BC but took
written form around 500 BC (Dyrness & kärkkäinen, 2008). These examples attest to the
cultural importance of literature, which has served many vital functions over the millennia,
from a repository of folk memory to the codification of moral schemas (Finnegan, 1980). On
a more personal level, literature has played a key role in shaping subjectivities. For instance,
the novel – which came to prominence as a literary form in the 18th Century (Moore, 2013) –
has been credited with helping create modern modes of (self) consciousness (Lodge, 2002).
Thus, while not all people ‘consume’ literature, it is scarcely possible for people to escape its
Turning first to sense-making, arguably of all the art forms considered here, literature
is the most efficacious in this regard, given its inherently discursive nature. Psychological
theories of meaning – and of the importance of finding a sense of meaning in life – highlight
the importance of narrative, i.e., stories that help us make sense of experience (Singer, 2004).
This applies both in a macro sense (explanations of life in general) and a micro sense (one’s
own life in particular). With the former, it is suggested that one of the main functions of
religion is providing people with an overarching narrative for existence, a meaningful story of
Running head: POSITIVE ART
how and why life exists (Berger & Luckmann, 1966). With the latter, it is argued that
personal meaning in life is dependent upon constructing a story that provides a context for
one’s actions and endows one’s own life with coherence and significance (Singer, 2004).
Thus, it is relevant here that literature can play a role in creating meaning, providing people
with macro and/or micro narratives. It can also help people make sense of social reality; for
instance, part of the power of novels is that they provide explanations for characters’ actions,
which readers can then apply to their own social existence (Mar & Oatley, 2008). Creative
writing can also be powerful in helping people process and understand their own lives
(Bolton, 1999). As such, we have seen the emergence of writing therapy in clinical settings
(Pizarro, 2004), as well as general writing-based interventions for wellbeing (Pennebaker &
Literature is equally potent in terms of enriching experience, both in terms of drawing
attention to dimensions of reality that had previously gone unnoticed, as well as creating new
‘realities.’ With the former, a prominent example is how reading can help foster empathy,
giving people insight into other people’s lives. Even if novels ‘only’ portray fictional
characters, studies show that exposure to their lives can enhance readers’ ‘theory of mind,’
i.e., their ability to take another person’s perspective (Kidd & Castano, 2013). People can
also be helped to discover concealed dimensions of their own lives. For instance, Joseph
Campbell (1970) argued that mythological literature contains archetypal themes that have
ongoing existential relevance to readers, such as the ‘hero’s journey,’ which captures the
journey to find one’s ‘true’ self. Worth (2015) suggests that part of the appeal of modern
epics, from Lord of the Rings to Harry Potter, is that readers are empowered to realise that
they too are on an existential journey, allowing them to see their lives in a new and more
significant light. Literature also allows people to explore new realities, giving glimpses into
other times and places. A quote on the blog www.humansofnewyork.com articulates this
well, ‘I have only one life to live. But in books I can live one thousand lives.’ Likewise, part
of the power of creative writing is that people can create new narratives for their lives – ones
that may be more enriching or sustaining – which indeed is one way in writing therapy exerts
its benefits (Pizarro, 2004).
The third positive outcome is aesthetic appreciation, which encapsulates the respect
and even reverence that quality literature can evoke. Here we might pay particular attention
to poetry, often esteemed as among the most aesthetically considered forms of literature,
famously defined by Coleridge (1827) as ‘the best words in the best order.’ By way of
example, consider the Japanese poetry form haiku. While being highly regarded in Japanese
Running head: POSITIVE ART
culture generally, it has achieved particular significance within Zen Buddhism, where the best
poems are regarded as ‘vital expressions of, and ways towards, spiritual experience’ (Bai,
2002, p.12). Among the complex richness of Zen is a valorisation of certain expressive
‘moods’ that Zen deems to be particularly important and reflective of reality (Watts, 1957).
These include mono no aware (pathos at the impermanence of life), wabi-sabi (desolate, aged
beauty), and yūgen (profound, mysterious grace). Japan’s greatest poets are consequently
revered for being able to articulate these moods using the sparse haiku template. Widely
regarded as pre-eminent among these is Matsuo Bashō (1644-1694), whose haiku capturing
these moods – mono no aware (Summer grasses –; the only remains; of warriors’ dreams),
wabi-sabi (Solitary now —; Standing amidst the blossoms; Is a cypress tree), and yūgen (On
a withered branch; A crow is perched; In the autumn evening) – are among the most revered
works in all Japanese literature (Watts, 1957). Moreover, these haiku are seen as powerful
sources of spiritual illumination for people who reflect upon them (Bai, 2002).
Turning to entertainment, there is an emergent body of work on ‘ludic reading,’ i.e.,
reading for pleasure (ludic derives from Latin, via French, and means spontaneously playful).
For instance, Nell (1988) highlights the capacity for readers to be ‘entranced’ by reading, a
quality of absorption akin to flow. Moreover, Nell argues that literature does not need to be
aesthetically beautiful or intellectually stimulating to facilitate ludic reading; in fact, even
‘sophisticated’ readers can gain pleasure from works that might be regarded culturally as
poor quality, e.g., as a way of ‘switching off’ that is relaxing and mentally restorative. Efforts
have been made to understand how to foster ludic reading, since if reading is experienced as
pleasurable, people are more likely to read and consequently to experience the benefits
outlined above. For instance, Senechal (2006) highlights the positive impact of ‘storybook
exposure’ in infancy (i.e., parents reading to them) on the likelihood of children subsequently
reading for pleasure (and on other cognitive skills, e.g., comprehension). There are also
efforts to promote enjoyment of writing, as this is associated with positive outcomes in
written endeavours, such as higher grades for college assignments (Larson, 1990). For
instance, Dwyer et al. (2012) outline successful efforts to promote enjoyment of writing
among early career academics through writing groups.
In discussing the value of writing groups, Dwyer et al. (2012) also highlight their
importance as a ‘platform of social and emotional support’ (p.129), which pertains to our
final positive outcome: bonding. The popularity of book clubs and reading groups is
testament to the potential of literature in this regard (Daniels, 2002). Such groups have a long
history; for instance, the first known literature circle in America was founded in 1634 as a
Running head: POSITIVE ART
women’s Bible study group (Wu, 2011). However, they appear to be increasingly popular in
recent years; according to Daniels (2002), while there were around 50,000 book clubs in the
U.S. in 1990, by 2000, this had doubled to at least 100,000. This popularity has been boosted
by prominent cultural figures like Oprah Winfrey, who started her book club in 1995, and
which now has over 2 million members (Wu, 2011). As Daniels (2002) outlines, such clubs
take reading beyond being a primarily solitary activity, and instead harness it as an occasion
for social engagement and ‘plural reflection’ (Turner, 1979), i.e., collective sense-making.
Reading is used as the basis for shared enquiry into important life themes, as well as simply a
good excuse for socialising. We must also highlight communal bonding around dramatic
performances of literature, from theatre to spoken word (Fisher, 2003); much like music
concerts, assembly around literary performance is an opportunity for what Lutz (2009) called
‘collective flow’ or ‘participatory consciousness.’ And, it is to these types of dramatic art
forms that we turn in the final section.
Our final broad area is drama, an all-encompassing term for a range of dramatic performance
modalities. This not only includes obvious examples, like theatre, but also comedy, magic,
the circus, and even sporting events (which Real (1975, p.31) referred to as ‘a form of mythic
spectacle’). We can again begin by briefly noting the significance of drama to humanity
throughout its history. Arguably pre-eminent in this regard is drama as public ritual, which
has been central to religious/spiritual traditions over the millennia (Rappaport, 1999).
Appreciation of the pivotal role of ritual in religion, and in culture generally, came to
prominence through the analyses of Durkheim (1912), who referred to the ‘effervescence’ of
ritual experience in helping people join a shared collective existence and internalise group
codes. Such rituals brought to life the kinds of oral narratives highlighted above – which are
central to the formation of collective identity – allowing group members to vividly participate
in these stories (Rappaport, 1999). The value of ritual in this way continues today, from
religious adherents partaking in rituals like the Christian eucharist, to military personal
engaging in acts of patriotism like parading the flag (Schilbrack, 2004). More generally,
public forms of drama, such as plays, enable cultures to engage in plural reflection or
‘reflexivity;’ as Turner (1979, p.465) puts it, such artforms are one of the main ways a group
‘communicates to itself,’ enabling it to ‘portray, understand, then act on itself,’ shining a light
on its values, issues, and concerns.
As the last sentence indicates, dramatic art forms offer powerful vehicles for sense-
making, enabling a culture ‘... to hold, as ’twere, the mirror up to nature,’ as Shakespeare
Running head: POSITIVE ART
phrases it in Hamlet (III, ii, 21–22). In this respect, dramatic arts carry a similar sense-making
potential to literature, as outlined above; indeed, many people would characterise dramatic
works like plays as a form of literature. Moreover, as Snow et al. (2003) point out, their
potential in this regard is heightened by their vividness and immedicy as a spectacle, bringing
the literature to life in front of people’s very eyes. However well Shakespeare may articulate
the viccisitudes of existence on the page, the power of his written word is magnified by
seeing these embodied by the dramatic skills of the finest stage actors. Furthermore, drama
can be more accessible than literature; a recent poll found that 75% of men prefer to watch a
film adaption of a book than read the original text (The Reading Agency, 2014). Indeed, the
availability of drama through media such as film and TV has accelerated over recent years.
These art forms have been credited with providing culture-shaping narratives that have
influenced how people have interpreted their world. In America, for instance, influential
reflections on society, and on the problematic notion of the ‘American Dream,’ have been
provided by a succession of great dramas across evolving platform, from the plays of Arthur
Miller (e.g., Death of a Salesman in 1949), to the films of Martin Scorsese (e.g., Taxi Driver
in 1976), to the great works of TV’s post-millennial ‘golden age’ (e.g., David Simon’s The
Wire). As Martin (2013) elucidates, surpassing mere entertainment, these works have held up
a mirror to America, facilitating a powerful form of cultural introspection and sense-making.
Dramatic performance is likewise a powerful means of enriching experience. Indeed,
one of the key functions of ritual, the proto-typical drama, was to enable people to access
valued states of trance or ecstasy (Leuba, 2013). Modern dramatic forms can also facilitate
complex emotional experiences. For example, films like Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space
Odyssey have been credited with provoking ‘transpersonal’ experiences through their
experimentation with altered realities and immersive viewer perspectives (Kaplan, 2005).
Less conventional dramatic forms are also capable of eliciting potent experiences. For
instance, magic has been found to engender sought-after emotions among viewers, like
curiosity and wonder; as such, magic has been harnessed as a therapeutic intervention,
particularly in paediatric settings (Hart & Walton, 2010). Likewise, the attraction of the
circus has been partly attributed to its ability to foster awe through daring acts (Loring, 2007).
Finally, there is a persuasive case that no other dramatic form is as capable at eliciting
overwhelming passion and fervour as great sporting events: indeed, sociologists have argued
that for committed fans, immersion in their team’s fortunes fulfils many functions of religion,
including participatory consciousness, tribal identity, and engagement with a narrative of
Running head: POSITIVE ART
‘good versus evil’ (us versus them) that is rendered all the more dramatic for being unscripted
Thirdly, dramatic spectacles are potent sources of aesthetic appreciation, with many
people luxuriating in the beauty and skill of the performers and the art-form. Indeed, it has
been argued that today’s screen idols fulfil similar functions to that held by religious gods in
past eras, from being revered as ‘superhuman’ exemplars, to offering inspiration (Alexander,
2010). While this kind of celebrity ‘worship’ may be problematic – e.g., fostering unrealistic
expectations (such as in relation to body image) that can be damaging to self-esteem (Maltby
et al., 2005) – it does highlight the powerful aesthetic appeal of drama. In a more benign way,
this aesthetic appeal is exemplified in the way people savour the performances of sporting
greats (aside from any partisan team allegiances), such as the respectful reverence afforded to
icons such as Lionel Messi (Brach, 2012). Beyond the protagonists, the ability of sporting
spectacles like football to capture the interest of people, particularly those who may be less
likely to engage with traditional dramatic forms, like adolescent boys, is well-documented
(Skelton, 2000). While there may be many factors driving this, such as gendered peer
pressure, the aesthetics of football – e.g., appreciation of spectacular goals – is an integral
element of its popularity. Of course, much attention has also been paid to the aesthetic appeal
of more conventional dramatic art-forms, such as theatre and cinema (Mitry & King, 1997).
The dramatic art forms above are also rich in entertainment value. Indeed, film and
TV are arguably the dominant cultural form of entertainment worldwide; for instance, in the
USA, TV watching is the leisure activity on which citizens spend the most time, at an average
of 2.5 hours per day (Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2015). However, as an exemplar of play and
fun, we might highlight the wellbeing value of comedy, and of laughter more generally. Of
course, comedy is not simply about pleasure and entertainment, but can be a mirror for
uncomfortable truths; indeed, recent years have seen the emergence of darker forms of
comedy, like Ricky Gervais’ The Office, an almost nihilistic commentary on the anomie of
modern work (Soper, 2009). Nevertheless, researches have attempted to understand the way
in which comedy can facilitate laughter. Such analyses explore questions like what makes
certain phenomena and jokes funny (e.g., the detection and resolution of incongruity; Bartolo
et al., 2006), and what purpose laughter serves (e.g., its evolutionary function as a form of
social bonding; Gervais & Wilson, 2005). Moreover, there is an emergent body of work on
the wellbeing benefits of laughter. For instance, Berk et al. (1989) found that it modified
neuroendocrine hormones involved in the stress response. Consequently, laughter has been
Running head: POSITIVE ART
harnessed in clinical settings (Penson et al., 2005), and we are even seeing the development
of comedy-related wellbeing interventions (Crawford & Caltabiano, 2011).
Finally, dramatic arts are effective vehicles for social bonding, whether as a spectator
or as a participant. I have already highlighted the way drama facilitates ‘plural reflection,’
offering ways for cultures to self-reflect and cohere around common concerns (Turner, 1979,
p465). Likewise, the type of intense group connectivity and identity afforded by phenomena
like sports spectatorship is well documented, even if this does also have problematic aspects,
such as hostility and even violence towards other groups (Dunning, 2000). At a less extreme
level, engagement with drama-related events such as local theatre offer regular and reliable
opportunities for socialising with like-minded people (Chan & Goldthorpe, 2005). Similarly,
actually participating in acting oneself (e.g., joining an amateur dramatics society) can be
powerful in bringing people together and forging meaningful connections (Rearden et al.,
1999). Likewise, from a therapuetic perspective, drama therapy can help people develop
social skills, particularly those who are especially vulnerable or in need of such skills, such as
homeless mentally ill patients (Schnee, 1996) or aggressive adolescent boys (Curran, 1939).
Indeed, as the date of the latter citation shows, the benefits of drama to wellbeing have long
been noted and harnessed.
This paper has outlined the potential wellbeing value of the arts, spanning four major art
forms: visual art, music, literature and drama. These art forms were examined with respect to
five main positive outcomes found consistently across relevant academic literature: sense-
making; enriching experience; aesthetic appreciation; entertainment; and bonding. The main
purpose of the paper was to provide an indicative summary of relevant theorising and
empirical research, bringing this together under the rubric of ‘positive art.’ However, in doing
so, the paper also sets out a research agenda for the future. Currently, the wellbeing value of
arts has tended to only be recognised to any extent within clinical fields, as reflected in the
forms of therapy that have emerged based on various art forms, from music to drama therapy.
However, the broader wellbeing potential of the arts – positively promoting flourishing, and
not only alleviating disorder/distress – has remained relatively under-studied and under-
utilised, as least in a collective sense. That is, a considerable amount of research has accrued
over the years concerning the relevance of the arts to wellbeing. However, there has hitherto
been no explicit attempt to create a broad sub-field of psychology that could allow this work
to be brought together in an integrated way. The hope here is that the proposed paradigm of
‘positive art’ will encourage and facilitate just such an integration.
Running head: POSITIVE ART
Indeed, the analysis above suggests that there is considerable applied potential in
harnessing artistic modalities to promote wellbeing (and associated outcomes such as
cognitive development). Indeed, art-based programmes are already being harnessed to good
effect across a diverse range of settings and populations, including (but not limited to): early
education (e.g., intercultural arts education for ethnic minority children; Khudu-Petersen,
2012); adolescent education (e.g., dance classes to reduce obesity in teenage girls; Robinson
et al., 2003); at-risk youth (e.g., ‘hip-hop’ therapy for ‘delinquent’ youth; Tyson, 2002);
vulnerable mental health groups (e.g., art in the community programmes; Clift, Argyle, &
Bolton, 2005); women who have experienced partner violence (e.g., group music activities;
Teague, Hahna, & McKinney, 2006); prisons (e.g., art-based rehabilitation programmes; Tett,
Anderson, McNeill, Overy, & Sparks, 2012); homeless people (e.g., drama therapy for those
who are mentally ill; Schnee, 1996); and older adults (e.g., visual art-based interventions in
the community; Swindells et al., 2013).
Moreover, these programmes may not only be helpful to the participants themselves,
but can be of broader benefit to society. For instance, one could envisage how initiatives to
reduce behavioural issues among at-risk youth (e.g., Tyson, 2002) would likely filter out into
positive societal outcomes, such as reduced anti-social behaviour and crime. As such, future
research would ideally conduct cost-benefit analyses on these type of interventions, thereby
highlighting their net impact. Researchers could seek to emulate recent cost-benefit analyses
of ‘positive’ interventions – not involving art specifically – which have demonstrated the
value of these types of programmes. For instance, Belfield et al. (2015) report that Life Skills
Training, a classroom intervention to reduce violence and substance abuse, can offer a net
gain of $2,660 per pupil (based on a cost of only $130 each), achieved through predicted
reductions in current and future criminality. Indeed, there are a few emergent cost-benefit
analyses of art-based initiatives. For instance, Bittman et al. (2005) calculated the impact of a
6 week Recreational Music-Making course on burnout among trainee nurses. The reductions
in burnout were such that the initiative was predicted to generate annual cost savings of
$16,800 if incorporated into a typical degree nursing program, and $322,000 if implemented
within an acute care hospital. Similarly, testing the same programme with long-term care
workers, Bittman, Bruhn, Stevens, Westengard, and Umbach (2003) estimated that the
intervention could generate projected cost savings of $89,100 for a single typical 100-bed
facility, and annual potential savings to the long-term care industry in the United States of
Running head: POSITIVE ART
These types of analyses remain few and far between, and so represent a goal to aim
for in terms of research into the positive impact of art upon wellbeing. That said, the evidence
reviewed above, such as it is, certainly points towards the merit of exploring and harnessing
art-based activities and interventions to promote wellbeing (and other desirable outcomes,
such as cognitive development). As such, it is hoped that this paper will encourage a greater
attention to the arts in fields like positive psychology, enabling science to fully understand
and appreciate the potential utility and power of positive art.
Alexander, J. C. (2010). The celebrity-icon. Cultural Sociology, 4(3), 323-336.
Arendt, H. (1958). The Human Condition. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
Bai, H. (2002). Zen and the art of intrinsic perception: A case of Haiku. Canadian Review of
Art Education, 28(1), 1-14.
Baker, F. A., Gleadhill, L. M., & Dingle, G. A. (2007). Music therapy and emotional
exploration: Exposing substance abuse clients to the experiences of non-drug-induced
emotions. The Arts in Psychotherapy, 34(4), 321-330.
Bakker, A. B. (2005). Flow among music teachers and their students: The crossover of peak
experiences. Journal of Vocational Behavior, 66(1), 26-44.
Running head: POSITIVE ART
Bartolo, A., Benuzzi, F., Nocetti, L., Baraldi, P., & Nichelli, P. (2006). Humor
comprehension and appreciation: An FMRI study. Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience,
Belfield, C., Bowden, B., Klapp, A., Levin, H., Shand, R., & Zander, S. (2015). The
Economic Value of Social and Emotional Learning. Columbia: Center for Benefit-
Cost Studies in Education.
Bennett, A. (2000). Popular Music and Youth Culture: Music, Identity and Place. London:
Bennett, A. (2006). Punk’s not dead: The continuing significance of punk rock for an older
generation of fans. Sociology, 40(2), 219-235.
Berger, P. L., & Luckmann, T. (1966). The Social Construction of Reality: A Treatise in the
Sociology of Knowledge. New York: Doubleday.
Berk, L. S., Tan, S. A., Fry, W. F., Napier, B. J., Lee, J. W., Hubbard, R. W., . . . Eby, W. C.
(1989). Neuroendocrine and stress hormone changes during mirthful laughter. The
American Journal of the Medical Sciences, 298(6), 390-396.
Berry, J. (1988). African cultural memory in New Orleans music. Black Music Research
Bittman, B., Bruhn, K. T., Stevens, C., Westengard, J., & Umbach, P. O. (2003). Recreational
music-making: A cost-effective group interdisciplinary strategy for reducing burnout
and improving mood states in long-term care workers. Advances in Mind Body
Medicine, 19(3/4), 4-15.
Bittman, B. B., Snyder, C., Bruhn, K. T., Liebfreid, F., Stevens, C. K., Westengard, J., &
Umbach, P. O. (2005). Recreational music-making: An integrative group intervention
for reducing burnout and improving mood states in first year associate degree nursing
students. International journal of nursing education scholarship, 1(1), 1548-1923
Bohart, A. C., & Greening, T. (2001). Humanistic psychology and positive psychology.
American Psychologist, 56(1), 81-82.
Bolton, G. (1999). The Therapeutic Potential of Creative Writing: Writing Myself. London:
Jessica Kingsley Publishers.
Bond, C. T. (1987). An aesthetic framework for dance. Journal of Physical Education,
Recreation & Dance, 58(3), 62-66.
Bonneville-Roussy, A., Rentfrow, P. J., Xu, M. K., & Potter, J. (2013). Music through the
ages: Trends in musical engagement and preferences from adolescence through
middle adulthood. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 105(4), 703-717.
Running head: POSITIVE ART
Brach, B. (2012). Who is Lionel Messi? A comparative study of Diego Maradona and Lionel
Messi. International Journal of Cultural Studies, 15(4), 415-428.
Bureau of Labor Statistics (2015). American Time Use Survey Summary. Washington:
Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Burkhardt, J., & Brennan, C. (2012). The effects of recreational dance interventions on the
health and well-being of children and young people: A systematic review. Arts &
Health, 4(2), 148-161.
Burkhardt, J., & Rhodes, J. (2012). Commissioning Dance for Health and Well-Being:
Guidance and Resources for Commissioners: DanceXchange.
Campbell, J. (1970). Mythological themes in creative literature and art. In J. Campbell (Ed.),
Myths, Dreams, and Religion (pp. 138-175). New York: EP Dutton & Co.
Chan, T. W., & Goldthorpe, J. H. (2005). The social stratification of theatre, dance and
cinema attendance. Cultural Trends, 14(3), 193-212.
Clift, S., Argyle, E., & Bolton, G. (2005). Art in the community for potentially vulnerable
mental health groups. Health Education, 105(5), 340-354.
Clow, A., & Fredhoi, C. (2006). Normalisation of salivary cortisol levels and self-report
stress by a brief lunchtime visit to an art gallery by London City workers. Journal of
Holistic Healthcare, 3(2), 29-32.
Coleridge, S. T. (1827). The Table Talk and Omniana of Samuel Taylor Coleridge. Oxford:
Oxford University Press.
Connolly Baker, K., & Mazza, N. (2004). The healing power of writing: Applying the
expressive/creative component of poetry therapy. Journal of Poetry Therapy, 17(3),
Crawford, S. A., & Caltabiano, N. J. (2011). Promoting emotional well-being through the use
of humour. The Journal of Positive Psychology, 6(3), 237-252.
Črnčec, R., Wilson, S. J., & Prior, M. (2006). The cognitive and academic benefits of music
to children: Facts and fiction. Educational Psychology, 26(4), 579-594.
Csikszentmihalyi, M. (1990). Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience. New York:
Curran, F. J. (1939). The drama as a therapeutic measure in adolescents. American Journal of
Orthopsychiatry, 9(1), 215-231.
Currid, E. (2007). The Warhol Economy: How Fashion, Art, and Music Drive New York City.
New York: Princeton University Press.
Running head: POSITIVE ART
Cutcliffe, J. R. (2003). Reconsidering reflexivity: Introducing the case for intellectual
entrepreneurship. Qualitative Health Research, 13(1), 136-148.
Dalke, H., Little, J., Niemann, E., Camgoz, N., Steadman, G., Hill, S., & Stott, L. (2006).
Colour and lighting in hospital design. Optics & Laser Technology, 38(4), 343-365.
Daniels, H. (2002). Literature Circles: Voice and Choice in Book Clubs and Reading Groups.
New York: Stenhouse Publishers.
Darwin, C. (1871). The Descent of Man (Vol. s]). London: Murray.
De Botton, A., & Armstrong, J. (2013). Art as Therapy. London: Phaidon Press.
Department for Culture, Media & Sport (2015). Museums and galleries monthly visits.
London: Department for Culture, Media & Sport.
Diaz, F. M. (2013). Mindfulness, attention, and flow during music listening: An empirical
investigation. Psychology of Music, 41(1), 42-58.
Dowdy, M. (2007). Live Hip Hop, Collective Agency, and “Acting in Concert”. Popular
Music and Society, 30(1), 75-91.
Dunning, E. (2000). Towards a sociological understanding of football hooliganism as a world
phenomenon. European Journal on Criminal Policy and Research, 8(2), 141-162.
Durkheim, E. (1912/2001). The Elementary Forms of Religious Life (C. Cosman, Trans.).
Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Dwyer, A., Lewis, B., McDonald, F., & Burns, M. (2012). It's always a pleasure: Exploring
productivity and pleasure in a writing group for early career academics. Studies in
Continuing Education, 34(2), 129-144.
Dyrness, W. A., & kärkkäinen, V.-M. (2008). Global Dictionary of Theology. Nottingham:
Edge, A. (2012). Faith of our Fathers: Football as a Religion. London: Random House.
Finnegan, R. H. (1980). Oral Poetry: Its Nature, Significance and Social Context. New York:
Fisher, M. (2003). Open mics and open minds: Spoken word poetry in African diaspora
participatory literacy communities. Harvard educational review, 73(3), 362-389.
Funch, B. S. (1997). The Psychology of Art Appreciation. New York: Museum Tusculanum
Gervais, M., & Wilson, D. S. (2005). The evolution and functions of laughter and humor: A
synthetic approach. The Quarterly Review of Biology, 80(4), 395-430.
Gilboa, A., & Bodner, E. (2009). What are your thoughts when the national anthem is
playing? An empirical exploration. Psychology of Music, 37(4), 459-484.
Running head: POSITIVE ART
Goolsby, T. W. (1984). Music education as aesthetic education: Concepts and skills for the
appreciation of music. Journal of Aesthetic Education, 15-33.
Grau, A., & Jordan, S. (2002). Europe Dancing: Perspectives on Theatre, Dance, and
Cultural Identity. London: Routledge.
Gregory, R. J., Schwer Canning, S., Lee, T. W., & Wise, J. C. (2004). Cognitive
Bibliotherapy for Depression: A Meta-Analysis. Professional Psychology: Research
and Practice, 35, 275-280.
Hart, R., & Walton, M. (2010). Magic as a therapeutic intervention to promote coping in
hospitalized pediatric patients. Pediatric Nursing, 36(1), 11-17.
Hefferon, K. M., & Ollis, S. (2006). ‘Just clicks’: An interpretive phenomenological analysis
of professional dancers’ experience of flow. Research in Dance Education, 7(2), 141-
Held, B. S. (2004). The negative side of positive psychology. Journal of Humanistic
Psychology, 44(1), 9-46.
Henry, H., & Taylor, A. (2009). Re‐thinking Apollo: Envisioning environmentalism in space.
The Sociological Review, 57(s1), 190-203.
Hetland, L. (2000). Listening to Music Enhances Spatial-Temporal Reasoning: Evidence for
the" Mozart Effect". Journal of Aesthetic Education, 34(3/4), 105-148.
Highwater, J. (1992). Dance: Rituals of Experience. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Jensen, R. M. (2013). Understanding Early Christian Art. New York: Routledge.
Jonas-Simpons, C., & Mitchell, G. J. (2005). Giving voice to expressions of quality of life for
persons living with dementia Through story, music, and art. Alzheimer's Care Today,
Kaplan, M. A. (2005). Transpersonal dimensions of the cinema. Journal of Transpersonal
Psychology, 37(1), 9-22.
Keltner, D., & Haidt, J. (2003). Approaching awe, a moral, spiritual, and aesthetic emotion.
Cognition & Emotion, 17(2), 297-314.
Keyes, C. L. M. (2005). Mental illness and/or mental health? Investigating axioms of the
complete state model of health. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 73(3),
Khudu-Petersen, K. (2012). The Involvement of Ethnic Minority Communities in Education
through the Arts: Intercultural Arts Education in Action. International Journal of the
Arts in Society, 6(6), 193-208.
Running head: POSITIVE ART
Kidd, D. C., & Castano, E. (2013). Reading literary fiction improves theory of mind. Science,
Larson, R. W. (1990). Emotions and the creative process: Anxiety, boredom, and enjoyment
as predictors of creative writing. Imagination, Cognition and Personality, 9(4), 275-
Leuba, J. H. (2013). The Psychology of Religious Mysticism. London: Routledge.
Lewis-Williams, J. D. (1995). Seeing and construing: The making and ‘meaning’ of a
Southern African rock art motif. Cambridge Archaeological Journal, 5(1), 3-23.
Lindqvist, G. (2001). The relationship between play and dance. Research in Dance
Education, 2(1), 41-52.
Linley, P. A., & Joseph, S. (2004). Applied positive psychology: A new perspective for
professional practice. In P. A. Linley & S. Joseph (Eds.), Positive Psychology in
Practice (pp. 3-12). Hoboken, New Jersey: John Wiley and Sons.
Lodge, D. (2002). Consciousness & The Novel: Connected Essays. Cambridge, MA: Harvard
Loman, S. (2005). Dance/movement therapy. In C. Malchiodi (Ed.), Expressive therapies
(pp. 68-89). New York: Guilford Press.
Lomas, T. (2015). Positive social psychology: A multilevel inquiry into socio-cultural
wellbeing initiatives. Psychology, Public Policy, and Law, 21(3), 338-347.
Lomas, T. (2016). Towards a positive cross-cultural lexicography: Enriching our emotional
landscape through 216 ‘untranslatable’ words pertaining to wellbeing. The Journal of
Positive Psychology. doi: 10.1080/17439760.2015.1127993
Loring, P. A. (2007). The most resilient show on earth: The circus as a model for viewing
identity, change and chaos. Ecology and Society, 12(1), 9.
Lutz, J. (2009). Flow and sense of coherence: Two aspects of the same dynamic? Global
Health Promotion, 16(3), 63-67.
Maier, J. R. (1997). Gilgamesh: A Reader. London: Bolchazy-Carducci Publishers.
Maltby, J., Giles, D. C., Barber, L., & McCutcheon, L. E. (2005). Intense-personal celebrity
worship and body image: Evidence of a link among female adolescents. British
Journal of Health Psychology, 10(1), 17-32.
Mander, J. (2015, Feb 9). Facebook slips as Instagram rises. Retrieved from
Mar, R. A., & Oatley, K. (2008). The function of fiction is the abstraction and simulation of
social experience. Perspectives on Psychological Science, 3(3), 173-192.
Running head: POSITIVE ART
Martin, B. (2013). Difficult Men: Behind the Scenes of a Creative Revolution: From The
Sopranos and The Wire to Mad Men and Breaking Bad. New York: Penguin.
Melchionne, K. (1998). Living in glass houses: Domesticity, interior decoration, and
environmental aesthetics. Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism, 191-200.
Mitry, J., & King, C. (1997). The Aesthetics and Psychology of the Cinema. New York:
Indiana University Press.
Moore, S. (2013). The Novel: An Alternative History, 1600-1800. New York: Bloomsbury.
Morley, I. (2002). Evolution of the physiological and neurological capacities for music.
Cambridge Archaeological Journal, 12(02), 195-216.
Nell, V. (1988). Lost in a book: The psychology of reading for pleasure. New Haven, CT:
Yale University Press.
Nietzsche, F. (1872/1993). The Birth of Tragedy out of the Spirit of Music (S. Whiteside,
Trans.). London: Penguin Books.
North, A. C., Hargreaves, D. J., & O'Neill, S. A. (2000). The importance of music to
adolescents. British Journal of Educational Psychology, 70, 255-272.
Nusbaum, E. C., Silvia, P. J., Beaty, R. E., Burgin, C. J., & Kwapil, T. R. (2015). Turn that
racket down! Physical anhedonia and diminished pleasure from music. Empirical
Studies of the Arts, 33(2), 228-243.
Olderog Millard, K. A., & Smith, J. M. (1989). The influence of group singing therapy on the
behavior of Alzheimer's disease patients. Journal of Music Therapy, 26(2), 58-70.
Panksepp, J., & Bernatzky, G. (2002). Emotional sounds and the brain: The neuro-affective
foundations of musical appreciation. Behavioural Processes, 60(2), 133-155.
Pennebaker, J. W., & Seagal, J. D. (1999). Forming a story: The health benefits of narrative.
Journal of Clinial Psychology, 55(10), 1243-1254.
Penson, R. T., Partridge, R. A., Rudd, P., Seiden, M. V., Nelson, J. E., Chabner, B. A., &
Lynch, T. J. (2005). Laughter: The best medicine? The Oncologist, 10(8), 651-660.
Peterson, C., & Seligman, M. E. P. (2004). Character Strengths and Virtues: A Handbook
and Classification. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.
Pizarro, J. (2004). The efficacy of art and writing therapy: Increasing positive mental health
outcomes and participant retention after exposure to traumatic experience. Art
Therapy, 21(1), 5-12.
Prins, F., & Hall, S. (1994). Expressions of fertility in the rock art of Bantu-speaking
agriculturists. African Archaeological Review, 12(1), 171-203.
Running head: POSITIVE ART
Proulx, T., & Inzlicht, M. (2012). The five “A”s of meaning maintenance: Finding meaning
in the theories of sense-making. Psychological Inquiry, 23(4), 317-335.
Rappaport, R. A. (1999). Ritual and Religion in the Making of Humanity. Cambridge:
Cambridge University Press.
Rauscher, F. H., Shaw, G. L., & Ky, K. N. (1993). Music and spatial task performance.
Real, M. R. (1975). Super bowl: Mythic spectacle. Journal of Communication, 25(1), 31-43.
Rearden, A., Burgoyne, S., & Poulin, K. (1999). The impact of acting on student actors:
Boundary blurring, growth, and emotional distress. Theatre Topics, 9(2), 157-179.
Renton, A., Phillips, G., Daykin, N., Yu, G., Taylor, K., & Petticrew, M. (2012). Think of
your art-eries: Arts participation, behavioural cardiovascular risk factors and mental
well-being in deprived communities in London. Public Health, 126, Supplement 1(0),
Reynolds, F. (2010). ‘Colour and communion’: Exploring the influences of visual art-making
as a leisure activity on older women's subjective well-being. Journal of Aging Studies,
Reynolds, F., & Lim, K. H. (2007). Turning to art as a positive way of living with cancer: A
qualitative study of personal motives and contextual influences. The Journal of
Positive Psychology, 2(1), 66-75.
Reynolds, M. W., Nabors, L., & Quinlan, A. (2000). The effectiveness of art therapy: Does it
work? Art Therapy, 17(3), 207-213.
Rich, M., Lamola, S., Gordon, J., & Chalfen, R. (2000). Video intervention/prevention
assessment: a patient-centered methodology for understanding the adolescent illness
experience1. Journal of Adolescent Health, 27(3), 155-165.
Ricks, C. (2011). Dylan's Visions of Sin. London: Canongate Books.
Robinson, T. N., Killen, J. D., Kraemer, H. C., Wilson, D. M., Matheson, D. M., Haskell, W.
L., . . . Thompson, N. (2003). Dance and reducing television viewing to prevent
weight gain in African-American girls: the Stanford GEMS pilot study. Ethnicity and
Disease, 13(1; SUPP/1), S1-65.
Russell, P. A. (2003). Effort after meaning and the hedonic value of paintings. British
Journal of Psychology, 94(1), 99-110.
Ruud, E. (2008). Music in therapy: Increasing possibilities for action. Music and Arts in
Action, 1(1), 46-60.
Running head: POSITIVE ART
Särkämö, T., Tervaniemi, M., Laitinen, S., Forsblom, A., Soinila, S., Mikkonen, M., . . .
Hietanen, M. (2008). Music listening enhances cognitive recovery and mood after
middle cerebral artery stroke. 131(3), 866-876.
Schilbrack, K. (2004). Thinking Through Rituals: Philosophical Perspectives. London:
Schnee, G. (1996). Drama therapy in the treatment of the homeless mentally ill: Treating
interpersonal disengagement. The Arts in Psychotherapy, 23(1), 53-60.
Seligman, M. E. P., & Csikszentmihalyi, M. (2000). Positive psychology: An introduction.
American Psychologist, 55, 5-14.
Seligman, M. E. P., Ernst, R. M., Gillham, J., Reivich, K., & Linkins, M. (2009). Positive
education: Positive psychology and classroom interventions. Oxford Review of
Education, 35(3), 293-311.
Senechal, M. (2006). Testing the home literacy model: Parent involvement in kindergarten is
differentially related to grade 4 reading comprehension, fluency, spelling, and reading
for pleasure. Scientific Studies of Reading, 10(1), 59-87.
Silvia, P. J. (2005). Emotional responses to art: From collation and arousal to cognition and
emotion. Review of General Psychology, 9(4), 342-357.
Singer, J. A. (2004). Narrative identity and meaning making across the adult lifespan: An
introduction. Journal of Personality, 72(3), 437-459.
Skelton, C. (2000). 'A passion for football': Dominant masculinities and primary schooling.
Sport, Education and Society, 5(1), 5-18.
Sloboda, J. A. (1991). Music structure and emotional response: Some empirical findings.
Psychology of Music, 19(2), 110-120.
Snow, S., D’Amico, M., & Tanguay, D. (2003). Therapeutic theatre and well-being. The Arts
in Psychotherapy, 30(2), 73-82.
Soper, K. (2009). The pathetic carnival in the cubicles:" The office" as meditation on the
misuses and collapse of traditional comedy. Studies in American Humor, 3(19), 83-
Swindells, R., Lawthom, R., Rowley, K., Siddiquee, A., Kilroy, A., & Kagan, C. (2013).
Eudaimonic well-being and community arts participation. Perspectives in public
health, 133(1), 60-65.
Sylvan, R. (2002). Traces of the Spirit: The Religious Dimensions of Popular Music. New
York: NYU Press.
Tarnas, R. (1991). The Passion of the Western Mind. London: Random House.
Running head: POSITIVE ART
Taylor, A. J. W. (1966). Beatlemania—A study in adolescent enthusiasm. British Journal of
Social and Clinical Psychology, 5(2), 81-88.
Teague, A. K., Hahna, N. D., & McKinney, C. H. (2006). Group music therapy with women
who have experienced intimate partner violence. Music Therapy Perspectives, 24(2),
Tett, L., Anderson, K., McNeill, F., Overy, K., & Sparks, R. (2012). Learning, rehabilitation
and the arts in prisons: a Scottish case study. Studies in the Education of Adults, 44(2),
Than, K. (2012, 14 June). World's Oldest Cave Art Found—Made by Neanderthals?,
The Reading Agency, T. R. (2014). Men prefer to watch big screen adaptations whilst women
read the books. London: The Reading Agency.
Thomas, D., & Brown, J. (2009). The Play of Imagination: Extending the Literary Mind After
Cognitivism (pp. 99-120). Netherlands: Springer.
Tonneijck, H. I. M., Kinébanian, A., & Josephsson, S. (2008). An exploration of choir
singing: Achieving wholeness through challenge. Journal of Occupational Science,
Turner, V. (1979). Frame, flow and reflection: Ritual and drama as public liminality.
Japanese Journal of Religious Studies, 465-499.
Tyson, E. H. (2002). Hip hop therapy: An exploratory study of a rap music intervention with
at-risk and delinquent youth. Journal of Poetry Therapy, 15(3), 131-144.
Urry, H. L., Nitschke, J. B., Dolski, I., Jackson, D. C., Dalton, K. M., Mueller, C. J., . . .
Davidson, R. J. (2004). Making a life worth living: Neural correlates of well-being.
Psychological Science, 15(6), 367-372.
Watts, A. W. (1957). The Way of Zen. London: Penguin Books.
Williamson, M. (2006). Space: The Fragile Fronlier. Reston, VA: American lnstltute of
Aeronautics and Astronautics, Inc.
Wittgenstein, L. (1953). Philosophical Investigations. New York: Macmillan.
Wood, A. M., & Tarrier, N. (2010). Positive Clinical Psychology: A new vision and strategy
for integrated research and practice. Clinical Psychology Review, 30(7), 819-829.
Worth, P. (2015). The hero’s journey. In I. Ivtzan, T. Lomas, K. Hefferon & P. Worth (Eds.),
Second Wave Positive Psychology. London: Routledge.
Wu, K. (2011, 2/8/2011). The State of Publishing: The Book Club Phenomena,