Research ProposalPDF Available

The art of display: how exhibition context influences the appreciation of artworks in museums


Abstract and Figures

The museum represents an environment that is most associated with art experience. In today's museum landscape, visitors encounter diverse curatorial concepts. This observation suggests that context matters in the experience of artworks in museums. The present study thus investigated the appreciation of two similar artworks in two different exhibition contexts. Real museum visitors were asked to evaluate the architectural and design features of the room, as well as the perceived harmony between the exhibited artworks on 7-point Likert-type scales. In a second phase, they rated their art experience with the particular painting, measured with the items memory, liking, interest, understanding, arousal, and valence, on 7-point Likert-type scales. We found that the more a visitor appreciated the presentation and the selection of artworks, the more he appreciated the specific painting. The number of artworks exhibited and their coherence in terms of size had an impact on the capacity to remember the specific painting. One of the two exhibition contexts scored higher on nearly every rating scale. Therefore, the present study gives evidence that exhibition design and display of artworks has an impact on how we see artworks in museums.
Content may be subject to copyright.
The art of display: how exhibition context influences the
appreciation of artworks in museums
Swaboda, Clara BA
Postgraduate student at École du Louvre, Paris (France) and University of Heidelberg (Germany)
This paper is a condensed version of my master thesis submitted at École du Louvre, Paris in the
discipline of Museum Studies.
The museum represents an environment that is most associated with art experience. In today’s
museum landscape, visitors encounter diverse curatorial concepts. This observation suggests that
context matters in the experience of artworks in museums. The present study thus investigated
the appreciation of two similar artworks in two different exhibition contexts. Real museum
visitors were asked to evaluate the architectural and design features of the room, as well as the
perceived harmony between the exhibited artworks on 7-point Likert-type scales. In a second
phase, they rated their art experience with the particular painting, measured with the items
memory, liking, interest, understanding, arousal, and valence, on 7-point Likert-type scales. We
found that the more a visitor appreciated the presentation and the selection of artworks, the more
he appreciated the specific painting. The number of artworks exhibited and their coherence in
terms of size had an impact on the capacity to remember the specific painting. One of the two
exhibition contexts scored higher on nearly every rating scale. Therefore, the present study gives
evidence that exhibition design and display of artworks has an impact on how we see artworks in
Keywords: art, museum, context, display, design, architecture, art appreciation, aesthetic
experience, psychology of art, perception, environmental psychology
The art of display: how exhibition context influences the appreciation of artworks in museums
A work of art is self-contained and isolated from its context. The impact of a painting has
little to do with the wall on which it is hung […]. (Berlyne, 1971)
The idea that art is perceived independent from its context goes back to the formalist
approach dominating the discourse about art throughout the twentieth century (Brieber et al.,
2015). With the emergence of museum studies a couple of decades ago, the impact of different
curatorial concepts gained interest and paved the way for an interdisciplinary and systematic
research on environmental factors in art experience. Researchers in the field of empirical
aesthetics today emphasize the importance of environmental aspects, which had been longtime
ignored in the psychological study of art. For instance Leder et al., who claim: “Factors related to
the presentational context may mark the most overlooked and potentially most fruitful area for
future research on psychology of art(Leder et al., 2017). Previous studies found that museum
context enhances the appreciation of art compared to laboratory setting (Grüner et al., 2019;
Specker et al. 2017; Brieber et al., 2015; Locher et al., 1999), that contextual constraints and
specificities impact cognition and affective reactions (Blaison and Hess, 2016; Olivia and
Torralba, 2007) and that the physical environment influences mood and performance (Quartier et
al., 2014; Dijkstra et al., 2008). Despite the burgeoning interest in context related cognition,
studies focused, to our knowledge, exclusively on a museum/laboratory design, rather than
considering specific choices of art display. In light of the wide range of curatorial approaches,
from the white-cube trying to eliminate any disturbing factors, thus creating the most neutral
environment possible, to the atelier-museums or collectors mansions aiming to revive the spirit
of a certain period of history, we presume that display indeed has an impact on the visitors
experience and maybe even on art appreciation.
Conceptual framework
Object recognition. Research in cognitive sciences has proven that context is more than
an accumulation of distractors hindering the recognition of a specific object (Olivia and Torralba,
2007). On the contrary, objects that constitute a scene are rich sources of information and can
even facilitate the detection of an object. Whether an object is easily detectable or not depends on
the perceived coherence of the environment defined by semantic (presence of the object, position
and size) and physical aspects (consistent support and interposition with other objects) (Olivia
and Torralba, 2007).
Environmental appreciation. Not all individuals judge their environment the same way,
this is because environmental appreciation is rather determined by previous individual
experiences (Cassidy, 1999). The categories of coherence, legibility, complexity, mystery, and
novelty form a useful framework for describing environmental features and their reception
(Cassidy, 1999).
Information charge of environment. The affective responses, in the form of pleasure
and arousal, depend largely on the over- or undercharge of the environment which trigger
opposite emotions (Mehrabian and Russell, 1974). A highly charged environment will make a
person feel stimulated and aroused, whereas an undercharged context will lead to emotions such
as calm or even somnolence (Donovan, 1982). The optimal degree of environmental charge is
based on personal aspects. Therefore, Mehrabian and Russell distinguish between screeners,
individuals that are able to reduce the charge of information, and non-screeners, who are less
selective and more sensible to stimuli emitted by the environment (Mehrabian and Russell,
Assimilation/contrast model. The assimilation/contrast model describes when and why
target objects are judged as being more approached or removed from contextual objects than they
actually are (Arielli, 2012). An assimilation effect occurs when context stimuli are so close to the
target stimulus in a specific dimension that they become confused. On the one hand, assimilation
effects take place when both stimuli are perceived as belonging to the same entity (Arielli, 2012).
On the other hand, the judgement of contrast occurs when target and contextual stimuli have
sufficiently similar properties in one dimension that allows a comparison, while differing in
another specific dimension, which favors the perceived difference between the two objects
(Arielli, 2012).
“Collative” properties of art. When “collativeproperties of art, such as novelty,
surprise, complexity and ambiguity are put together, they have arousal potential (Berlyne, 1971).
The effect of novelty occurs when an individual detects similarities or differences with what he
has seen right before. Reactions on complexity and ambiguity are produced by the comparison of
different aspects that are present at the same moment. The effect of novelty refers to the
subjective judgement on familiarity or unfamiliarity with a certain aesthetic configuration
(Berlyne, 1971). According to the mere exposure effect, unfamiliarity is reduced if the person is
repeatedly confronted to the same stimulus (Berlyne, 1971). Whether surprise is judged positive
or negative, depends on the predictability of surprise in a certain situation. Therefore, an
individual that expects to be surprised, for instance if he visits a museum where he will
encounter complex artworks, will judge surprise as more pleasing. The effect of complexity is
linked to the number of elements and their redundancy as well as how these elements are
grouped. Thus, a high level of redundancy is judged as more “prägnant” (Berlyne, 1971).
Aesthetic processing model. Within the last decade of research on the perception of art,
several models to explain primarily cognitive processing have been developed (Pelowski et al.,
2016). Even though every model focuses on specific aspects of informational processes, inputs
or outputs, they share the same fundamental approach, involving input from the visual stimuli as
well as contextual information, processing mechanisms in several stages and output on a mental
and behavioral level (Pelowski et al., 2016). Two models are considered particularly interesting
for this study: the model of aesthetic judgment and appreciation of Leder et al. and the
appraisal/emotion model of Silvia. The first model is insofar interesting as it focuses on a precise
characterization and distinction of successive processing stages, including pre-classification,
perceptual analysis, implicit memory integration, explicit classification, cognitive mastering,
evaluation and aesthetic judgement as well as aesthetic emotion (Leder et al., 2004). The strength
of the model lies in the idea of cognitive mastering as repeated feedback-loops to reduce
ambiguity and the fact that it insists on the interdependence of affective and cognitive
functioning during the whole process as well as the distinction of two distinct types of outputs
(Leder et al., 2004). In addition to this model, Silvia concentrates on the later stages of visual
processing and especially on the output where he distinguishes evaluation, emotion and body
response as well as long term impact such as creating meaning and self-adjustment (Pelowski et
al., 2016; Silvia, 2005).
The present study
Environmental psychology suggests that perception and recognition of a target object is
influenced by the properties of its environment. It therefore seems interesting to study the
perception of a distinct artwork in two different exhibition contexts, a highly contextualized
environment vs. a highly decontextualized environment. In so doing, we presume that (a) the
more a person appreciates the presentation, the more he appreciates the artwork and (b) one of
the exhibition contexts favors art appreciation more than the other one.
For the present study, 200 visitors (102 women) were recruited. The participants were
randomly chosen among the visitors of both museums and naturally formed two groups (of 100
participants in each case) according to the museum they were visiting. They participated
voluntarily without any return. In comparison to several studies in empirical aesthetics, that
preferably recruit students in exchange for course credits, the choice of conducting a study with
“authenticvisitors presumably allows for a broader insight in art experience and behavior of
visitors in museums.
Context. The two museums chosen as different settings for the present study are
comparable according to the period covered by the exhibited artworks (both presenting a high-
quality collection of eighteenth-century French painting) but differ clearly in the view of
architectural characteristics and constraints as well as curatorial choices (Table 1).
Louvre Museum
2nd floor of Sully wing, directly under the roof, most
distant part from the entrance under the pyramid (10 to 15
minutes, climbing up several staircases)
Oblong, spacious room, gallery style
High ceiling
Linear series of similar gallery rooms, doorways on the
short sides of the room
Paint in a medium gray
Natural skylight equally diffused on the walls and faint
ambient light
Labels with technical information in French and English
next to the artworks, information sheets on specific topics
in French, English, Italian, Spanish, German and Chinese
Medium to big size paintings, mix of religious,
mythological and genre paintings as well as portraits
and still lifes, covering a period from 1704 to 1767
Grouping of 4 to 5 paintings according to aesthetic
concerns, display in two rows
Surrounded by larger paintings (from Boucher and other
artists), portraits of personalities from the époque and
historical painting, different artistic approaches
according to brush stroke and coloring
Musée Cognacq-Jay
2nd floor of hôtel de Donon (former private residence),
small distance from the entrance (3-5 minutes)
Among the largest rooms of the building, but residential
Relatively low ceiling
Apartment-like distribution of the adjoining rooms,
multiple wall openings (windows and doors)
Dark brown wood-paneled walls from the 18th century
Spotlights on the objects and ambient light from a
Text panel on the artist Boucher in French and English,
no labels next to the artworks but a room plan with
technical information on the objects in French and
Medium to small size paintings, furniture, and small
decorative objects in the display cabinets, paintings
representing portraits, genre and mythological scenes,
covering a period from 1730 to 1770
Alternation of paintings and furniture, display responds to
architectural features
Surrounded by smaller paintings of the same artists or
copies after him, genre and mythological scenes, similar
style and presence of nudes
position in the building
size of the room
height of the walls
relation with the adjoining
wall color and texture
selection of artworks
arrangement of the Boucher
Table 1. Architecture and design of the two exhibition rooms.
Stimuli. Two paintings of French eighteenth century artist François Boucher, which show
remarkable similarities in style, content and initial function (Burollet, 2004; Ternois, 1966),
exhibited in the Louvre Museum and the Cognacq-Jay Museum in Paris, were used in the present
study. The participants had access to the information provided by the museum concerning the
artworks (label) and the general content of the room (text panel).
Display evaluation. To assess the evaluation of the exhibition design, judgment on
architectural and design features of the room (liking of the presentation, size of the room, height
of the walls, lighting, wall color, and number of objects) were measured. The selection of these
items was based on the findings of several studies on the impact of museum environment on art
experience (Pelowski et al., 2017). All were rated on 7-point Likert-type scales from 1
(unpleasant) to 7 (pleasant), except for liking of the presentation and number of objects
(1=dissatisfied, 7=satisfied). Furthermore, the perceived harmony of exhibited artworks
(according to size, colors, subjects, style, and ambiance) was measured by 7-point Likert-type
scales (1=strongly disagree, disagree, slightly disagree, neutral, slightly agree, agree, 7=strongly
Figure 1. François Boucher, Diana Returning from
the Hunt, 1745, oil on canvas, 0,94 x 1,31 cm, Paris,
Musée Cognacq-Jay, J 20, © Wikimedia Commons,
public domain
Figure 2. François Boucher, Diana Getting out of her
Bath, 1742, oil on canvas, 0,57 x 0,73 cm, Paris,
Louvre Museum, INV. 2712, © Wikimedia Commons,
public domain
agree). As a hook, the questionnaire started with an open question (When you think of the room
you just visited, which aspects of the presentation come to your mind?) to determine the aspects
and features of the display that the visitors remarked most.
Art experience. To assess the experience of artworks, memory, interest, comprehension,
liking, arousal and valence were measured. Using these scales enables the measurement of
affective (valence and arousal) and cognitive (memory, interest, understanding and liking)
aspects of art experience and allows the comparison with previous studies (Grüner et al., 2019;
Brieber et al. 2015; Brieber et al. 2014). The operationalization was as follows: Memory (Do you
remember this painting?), liking (Did you like this painting?), interest (Did this painting wake
your interest?), understanding (Is this painting understandable for you?), arousal (Did this
painting excite you?), and valence (How would you evaluate your encounter with this painting?).
All were rated on 7-point Likert-type scales from 1 (not at all) to 7 (a lot), except for valence
(1=very negative to 7=very positive). Two open questions (Describe your first impression of this
painting…, and In your opinion, does this painting match the other works of art in this room or
not? Why?) were conceived, with the idea of capturing further information about the visitor’s art
experience, that were not taken into account by the rating scales. The internal consistency of the
test calculated as Cronbach’s alpha was at = .909, thus making the test reliable.
Participants were asked to fill out a questionnaire (either in French or English) after
having visited the room exhibiting the particular painting used for this study. The instructions
were given orally, and the participants were not explicitly informed about the purpose of the
study (to avoid bias).
The better the display, the more satisfying the art experience?
Correlations of the art experience scale ratings revealed a relation between affective and
cognitive functioning (Table 2). Interest and linking showed the strongest correlation (r= 0.788,
  .001). A general tendency for higher correlations of affective functioning, for instance
arousal and valence (r = 0.685,   .001), than for cognitive processes was observed.
Affective functioning in art experience, arousal and valence, was also more strongly
correlated with the evaluation of architectural and design features than cognitive ones (Table 3).
As for the specific aspects of display, the appreciation of the presentation in general, height of
the walls and the number of objects exhibited were most strongly correlated with the art
experience. The appreciation of the presentation, for instance, showed an important linear
relation with valence (r = .393, .001), arousal (r = .342, .001) and liking (r = .305,
.001). The aspect wall color was little or even negatively correlated with art experience, for
instance memory (r = -.017, .814) and understanding (r = -.014, .843). Interestingly,
memory is very little correlated with architectural and design features, but its most important
linear relation can be found for number of objects (r =.132, .065).
Even higher correlations were found between the perceived harmony of the exhibited
artworks and the appreciation of the painting in the present study (Table 4). A general harmony
in the selection of artworks showed the most important correlation among the criteria that were
taken into account, particularly for valence (r = .395, .001) and arousal (r = .345, .001)
but also for cognitive functioning such as interest (r = .295, .001) and understanding (r
= .261, .001). The second most important aspect in terms of linear relation with art
experience, was the perceived harmony of artworks according to their size with highest
correlations for affective functioning, but interestingly also for memory (r = .209, .003).
Does context really matter?
The descriptive statistics show that the participants of the Cognacq-Jay group evaluated
the architectural and design features higher than the participants of the Louvre group, exception
being the wall-height and lighting, here the Louvre received higher scores. A mixed MANOVA
including the evaluation of the presentation rating scales as between-subjects factor, and group
(Cognacq-Jay and Louvre) as within-subjects factor, revealed a significant effect of the group
interaction on the ratings (Wilks = 0.863, F(6,19) = 5.045, .001,
= .137). Separated
one-way ANOVAs revealed strongest effects for general appreciation of the presentation (F(1,19)
= 6.636, .001,
= .033), wall color (F(1,19) = 9.753, .002,
= .047) and number of
objects (F(1,19) = 13.716, .001,
= .065).
In the same vein, descriptive statistics revealed that the participants of the Cognacq-Jay
group rated all harmony between artwork scales higher. Another mixed MANOVA was run for
harmony between artworks rating scales as between-subjects factor with significantly differences
between both groups (Wilks = 0.831, F(6,19) = 6.426, .001,
= .169). By running
separated one-way ANOVAs, significant effects emerged for harmony according to subjects
(F(1,195) = 57.959, .001,
= .140), according to style (F(1,195) = 25.387, .001,
= .092) and according to ambiance (F(1,195) = 31.830, .001,
= .080).
Confirming the tendency observed by the previous analysis, participants of the Cognacq-
Jay group rated higher on all art appreciation scales compared to the Louvre group. A mixed
MANOVA for art appreciation scales as between-subjects factor revealed a significant effect of
the group interaction on the ratings. By running separated one-way ANOVAs, significant
differences were observed for memory (F(1,188) = 45.634, .003,
= .045), interest
(F(1,188) = 24.954, .003,
= .046, and arousal (F(1,188) = 6.299, .013,
= .032).
Thus, context had a considerable effect on the experience of art.
This study investigated the impact of exhibition design and display on art appreciation.
To our knowledge, it is the first study that demonstrates the direct link between evaluation of
architectural and design features on the affective and cognitive processing of artworks.
Our findings, on psychological functioning in art experience, suggest an interdependency
of affective and cognitive processes. Moreover, the affective state seems to adapt according to
the degree of cognitive mastery. This observation is in line with previous research on art
processing models (Leder et al., 2004). The present study revealed that appreciation of the
exhibition room is linked to art experience, especially affective processes. Previous studies in
environmental psychology found that environmental aspects, such as lighting and wall color, had
an impact on the affective state, mood for instance, of individuals (Quartier et al. 2014; Dijkstra
et al. 2008). The number of objects had according to our study an impact on the detection of a
specific artwork. This finding is line with research in the field of cognitive sciences that suggest
that contextual stimuli can either hinder or favor detection of a target stimulus (Olivia and
Torralba, 2007). The negative correlation of wall color with cognitive processes remains
unexplained in our study. A possible explanation could be that a strong appreciation of the
inherent aesthetic qualities of wall color and texture, the wood-paneled walls in our study for
instance, might distract from the actual artwork. Despite the lack of scientific evidence to explain
this finding, research on the psychological impact of color suggests a highly individual and
culturally influenced perception of specific hues and shades (Elliott and Maier, 2014; Dijkstra et
al. 2008). Perceived harmony between the selection of artworks exhibited together had an even
bigger impact on art experience, mostly on affective but also cognitive functioning. Among the
criteria for coherence in the selection of artworks, size played the most important role in art
experience, as an essential semantic feature in object recognition (Olivia and Torralba, 2007).
Higher scores on almost all rating scales, including appreciation of the display and exhibition
design, perceived harmony between the artworks and art experience, attributed by participants of
the Cognacq-Jay group prove, that context indeed matters in aesthetical experience. The
encounter with the Boucher painting was experienced as more satisfying, on the affective as well
as cognitive level, by visitors of Musée Cognacq-Jay. In view of these findings, we suggest that
the exhibition design and selection of artworks in Musée Cognacq-Jay can be qualified as more
coherent, legible and complex according to environmental appreciation models (Cassidy, 1999).
Despite the valuable findings of this study, some limitations have to be taken into account
that will lead to recommendations for further research. As the present study was not conducted in
a laboratory but in a “realenvironment, test conditions are naturally less stable which can lead
to less reliable results. In the same vein, the stimuli chosen were paintings with similar semantic
and formal features but still not the same. Therefore, we have to consider that results are
susceptible to be biased by this fact. It was possible to determine quantitative differences in
appreciation of exhibition design and selection of artworks according to specific categories. As
this study is the first to investigate the direct impact of exhibition design on art experience, we
were not able to draw general conclusions on how exactly specific environmental properties
interfere with art experience. Further studies should therefore manipulate specific contextual
features (such as wall color, lighting, arrangement of artworks) to generate a more precise
knowledge about the impact of particular design choices.
Although museum professionals become more and more aware of the important role of
exhibition design for the experience of artworks, little systematic research has been done in this
field. This research issue is however crucial for understanding the social relevance of museums,
the relation of museum space and exhibited artworks and the psychological impact of both of
these aspects.
Ananoff, A. (1980). L’opera completa di Boucher. Milan: Rizzoli Editore.
Angelone, B. L., and Levin, D. T. (2008). The Visual Metacognition Questionnaire: A measure of
intuitions about vision. The American Journal of Psychology, 102(3), 451-472.
Arielli, E. (2012). Contrast and assimilation in aesthetic judgments of visual artworks. Empirical
Studies of the Arts, 30(1), 59-74.
Arnheim, R. (1956). Art and Visual perception: a psychology of the creative eye. London: Faber
and Faber Limited.
Augustin, M. D., Leder, H., Hutzler, F., and Carbon, C. C. (2008). Style follows content: On the
microgenesis of art perception. Acta Psychologica, 128, 127-138.
Belke, B., Leder, H., Strobach, T., and Carbon, C. C. (2010). Cognitive Fluency: High-Level
Processing Dynamics in Art Appreciation. Psychology of Aesthetics, Creativity and the
Arts, 4(4), 214-222.
Berlyne, D. E. (1971). Aesthetics and Psychobiology. New York: Appleton-Century-Crofts.
Bernat, E., Patrick, C. J., Benning, S. D., and Tellegen, A. (2006). Effects of picture content and
intensity on affective physiological response. Psychophysiology, 43, 2006, 93-103.
Blaison, C., and Hess, U. (2016). Affective judgment in spatial context: How places derive
affective meaning from the surroundings. Journal of Environmental Psychology, 47, 53-
Brieber, D., Leder, H., and Nadal, M. (2015). The Experience of Art in Museums: An Attempt to
Dissociate the Role of Physical Context and Genuineness. Empirical Studies of the Arts,
33(1), 95-105.
Brieber, D., Nadal, M., and Leder, H. (2015). In the white cube: Museum context enhances the
valuation and memory of art. Acta Psychologica, 154, 36-42.
Brieber, D., Nadal, M., Leder, H., and Rosenberg, R. (2014). Art in Time and Space: Context
Modulates the Relation between Art Experience and Viewing Time. PLoS ONE, 9(6), 1-8.
Burollet, T. (2004). Les peintures. Les collections du musée Cognacq-Jay. Paris: Paris-Musées.
Carbon, C. C. (2019). Empirical Approaches to Studying Art Experience. Journal of Perceptual
Imaging, 2(1), 1-7.
Carbon, C.C. (2017). Art Perception in the Museum: How We Spend Time and Space in Art
Exhibitions. i-Perception, January-February, 1-15.
Cassidy, T. (1999). Environmental Psychology. Behaviour and Experience in Context.
Birmingham: Psychology Press.
Cela-Conde, C. J., García-Prieto, J., Ramasco, J. J., Mirasso, C. R., Ricardo, B., Munar, E.,
Flexas, A., del-Pozo, F., and Maestú, F. (2013). Dynamics of brain networks in the
aesthetic appreciation. PNAS, 110(18), 10454-10461.
Dijkstra, K., Pieterse, M. E., and Pruyn, A. Th. H. (2008). Individual differences in reactions
towards color in simulated healthcare environments: The role of stimulus screening
ability. Journal of Environmental Psychology, 28, 268-277.
Donovan, R. (1982). Store Atmosphere: An Environmental Psychology Approach. Journal of
Retailing, 58, 34-57.
Elliot, A. J., and Maier, M. A. (2014). Color Psychology: Effects of Perceiving Color on
Psychological Functioning in Humans. Annual Review of Psychology, 65, 95-120.
Funch, B. S. (1997). The Psychology of Art Appreciation. Copenhagen: Museum Tusculanum
Greifeneder, R., Bless, H., and Tuan Pham, M. (2011). When Do People Rely on Affective and
Cognitive Feelings in Judgment? A Review. Personality and Social Psychology Review,
15(2), 107-141.
Grüner, S., Specker, E., and Leder, H. (2019). Effects of Context and Genuineness in the
Experience of Art. Empirical Studies of the Arts, 0(0), 1-15.
Jakesch, M., Leder, H., and Forster, M. (2013). Image Ambiguity and Fluency. PLoS ONE, 8(9),
Joy, A., and Sherry, J. F. (2003). Speaking of art as embodied imagination: A multisensory
approach to understanding aesthetic experience. Journal of consumer research, 30(2),
Leder, H., Belke, B., Oeberst, A., and Augustin, D. (2004). A model of aesthetic appreciation and
aesthetic judgements. British Journal of Psychology, 95(4), 489-508.
Locher, P., Smith, L., and Smith, J. (1999). Original paintings versus slide and computer
reproductions: A comparison of viewer responses. Empirical Studies of the Arts, 17(2),
Mehrabian, A., and Russell, J. A. (1974). An approach to environmental psychology. Cambridge,
MA, US: The MIT Press.
Mehrabian, A. (1976). Public places and private spaces. The psychology of Work, Play, and
Living Environments. New York: Basic Books Inc.
Muth, C., and Carbon, C. C. (2016). SeIns: Semantic Instability in Art. Art & Perception, 4, 145-
Muth, C., Raab, M. H., and Carbon, C. C. (2015). The stream of experience when watching
artistic movies. Dynamic aesthetic effects revealed by the Continuous Evaluation
Procedure (CEP). Frontiers in Psychology, 6, 1-13.
Olivia, A., and Torralba, A. (2007). The role of context in object recognition. TRENDS in
Cognitive Sciences, 11(12), 520-527.
Pearce, M. T., Zaidel, D. W., Vartanian, O., Skov, M., Leder, H., Chatterjee, A., and Nadal, M.
(2016). Neuroaesthetics: The Cognitive Neuroscience of Aesthetics. Perspectives on
Psychological Science, 11(2), 265-279.
Pelowski, M., Leder, H., and Forster, M. (2017). Beyond the Lab: An Examination of Key
Factors Influencing Interaction between “Realand Museum-based Art. Psychology of
Aesthetics, Creativity, and the Arts, 11(3), 245-264.
Pelowski, M., Markey, P. S., Lauring, J.O., and Leder, H. (2016). Visualizing the Impact of Art:
An Update and Comparison of Current Psychological Models of Art Experience.
Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, 10(160), 1-21.
Quartier, K., Vanrie, J., and Van Cleempoel, K. (2014). As real as it gets: What role does lighting
have on consumer’s perception of atmosphere, emotions and behaviour?. Journal of
Environmental Psychology, 39, 32-39.
Reber, R., Schwarz, N., and Winkielman, P. (2004). Processing Fluency and Aesthetic Pleasure:
Is Beauty in the Perceiver’s Processing Experience?. Personality and Social Psychology
Review, 8(4), 364-82.
Reisberg, D., and Heuer, F. (2005). Visuospatial Images. In The Cambridge Handbook of
Visuospatial Thinking. (pp. 35-80). New York: Cambridge University Press.
Scherer, K. R. (2005). What are emotions? How can they be measured?. Social Science
Information, 44(4), 695-729.
Silvia, P. J. (2005). Emotional responses to art: From collation and arousal to cognition and
emotion. Review of General Psychology, 9, 342-357.
Specker, E., Tinio, P. L., and van Elk, M. (2017). Do you see what I see? An investigation of the
aesthetic experience in the laboratory and museum. Psychology of Aesthetics and the
Arts, 11(3), 2017, 265-275.
Ternois, D. (1966). Boucher. Paris: O.D.E.J.-Presse.
Tschacher, W., Kirchberg, V., van den Berg, K., Greenwood, S., Wintzerith, S., and Tröndle, M.
(2012). Physiological Correlates of Aesthetic Perception of Artworks in a Museum.
Psychology of Aesthetics, Creativity, and the Arts, 6(1), 96-103.
Tversky, B. (2005). Functional Significance of Visuospatial Representations. In The Cambridge
Handbook of Visuospatial Thinking. (pp. 1-34). New York: Cambridge University Press.
Vogels, I. (2008). Atmosphere Metrics. Development of a Tool to Quantify Experienced
Atmosphere. In Probing Experience. From Assessment of User Emotions and Behaviour
to Development of Products. (pp. 25-41). Dordrecht: Springer.
Walker, S. R. (1996). Thinking Strategies for Interpreting Artworks. Studies in Art Education,
37(2), 80-91.
Zeki, S. (2004). The neurology of ambiguity. Consciousness and Cognition, 13, 173-196.
Table 2
Pearson correlation coefficient of the different types of psychological functioning
.649** [.43]
.625** [.54]
.417 [.36]
.706** [.17]
.788** [.79]
.445 [.51]
.681** [.55]
.459 [.56]
.685** [.40]
.457 [.28]
Note: ** strong effect, […] in brackets the findings of Brieber, D., Nadal, M., and Leder, H.
(2015). In the white cube: Museum context enhances the valuation and memory of art. Acta
Psychologica, 154, 36-42.
Table 3
Pearson correlation coefficient of evaluation of exhibition design and appreciation of the painting
presentation in
size of the room
height of the walls
color of the walls
number of objects
Note: * small effect, ** medium effect
Table 4
Pearson correlation coefficient of harmony between objects and appreciation of the painting
Note: * small effect, ** medium effect
Art experience:
Figure 3. Comparison of the six rating scales for the two groups. Vertical axis indicates the
average for each scale, the horizontal axis indicates the groups, means and error bars indicate
95% CIs.
... It has been proposed that a crucial element of art appreciation is a viewer's desire to connect knowledge of an artwork to the style, culture, or artist of the work itself (e.g., Bullot & Reber, 2013;Swaboda, 2019;Thompson & Antliff, 2013). Context can be used to understand, explain, and experience art. ...
... Contexts could include the location of the artwork, accompanying text, knowledge of the artist, knowledge of the time and society in which the artwork was created, and so on. For example, simply telling an art viewer that something is an art object as opposed to a journalistic image has been shown to affect how the viewer perceives the object (Gerger et al., 2014) and the context of an art object being in a museum has been shown to enhance appreciation (Brieber et al., 2015(Brieber et al., , 2014Swaboda, 2019). Additionally, recent models have proposed that connecting art to its historical concept is an important aspect of art appreciation (Bullot & Reber, 2013;Redies, 2015;Thompson & Antliff, 2013), implying that differences in one's ability and willingness to contextualize art results in differing levels of art appreciation. ...
Full-text available
Studies found that genuine artworks viewed in a museum receive higher appreciation ratings than reproductions in the laboratory. Due to the mutual variation of context and genuineness, these studies were not able to disentangle these factors. A study designed by Brieber, Leder, and Nadal to systematically differentiate between these two variables did not find an effect of context or genuineness. To substantiate these results, we setup a conceptual replication by using the same 2 (museum/laboratory) by 2 (genuine/reproduction) between-subjects design with improved manipulations of context and genuineness. We found an effect of context, as artworks presented in a museum were liked more and rated more interesting than in the laboratory. We did not find effects of genuineness. Exploratively, we found that art style had a big impact on how artworks were rated regardless of context and genuineness, indicating that this may be a more important factor for aesthetic experience.
Full-text available
Two studies examined people's aesthetic experiences of art in the laboratory and the museum. The theoretical framework guiding the research was based on the Mirror Model of Art (Tinio, 2013), which proposes that the process of artistic creation and artistic reception mirror each other. Study 1 used a think-aloud protocol to assess people's natural and spontaneous reactions while looking at art. Study 2 examined whether presenting information about an artwork in a certain order (lower-order to higherorder information or higher-order to lower-order information) enhances aspects of the aesthetic experience and retention of information about art. Studies 1 and 2 were each conducted both in a laboratory and in a museum. The results replicate those of previous research that showed that the aesthetic experience of art is enhanced in the museum as compared with the laboratory setting. In addition, the results show that the effects of presenting information in a certain order (lower-order to higher-order information) depend on the context of presentation: museum visitors were better able to remember information about art than laboratory participants. Overall, the findings suggest that the Mirror Model is a good representation of how people naturally process art, but that certain aspects of the model could be optimized.
Full-text available
We present a comprehensive review and theoretical discussion of factors that could impact our interaction with museum-based art. Art is an important stimulus that reveals core insights about human behavior and thought. Art perception is in fact often considered one of the few uniquely human phenomena whereby we process multiple types of information, experience myriad emotions, make evaluations, and where these elements not only occur but combine. Art viewing often occurs in museums, which are acknowledged as primary locations where individuals naturally meet art, and which—in conjunction with “real” artworks—may contribute greatly to experience. However, to- date, psychological aesthetics studies have only begun to consider in-museum examinations, focusing instead on highly controlled laboratory-based studies, and leading to calls for a need to shift to ecologically valid examinations. To provide a foundation for such research, we consider what key psychological differences may be expected between original/museum and reproduced/lab-based art, and why the art experience may be different when occurring within the museum context. We also review factors that should be controlled for, or which may raise new, unexplored areas for empirical research. These include three main levels: the artwork, the viewer, and physical aspects of the museum. We connect these factors to a model of art processing and relate to findings from sociology and general museum studies, which have largely been overlooked in psychological aesthetics research.
Full-text available
Aesthetics research aiming at understanding art experience is an emerging field; however, most research is conducted in labs without access to real artworks, without the social context of a museum and without the presence of other persons. The present article replicates and complements key findings of art perception in museum contexts. When observing museum visitors (N = 225; 126 female, M(age) = 43.3 years) while perceiving a series of six Gerhard Richter paintings of various sizes (0.26–3.20 sq. m) in a temporary art exhibition in January and February 2015 showing 28 paintings in total, we revealed patterns compatible to previous research. The mean time taken in viewing artworks was much longer than was mostly realized in lab contexts, here 32.9 s (Mdn = 25.4 s). We were also able to replicate visitors spending more time on viewing artworks when attending in groups of people. Additionally, we uncovered a close positive relationship (r2 = .929) between canvas size and viewing distance, ranging on average between 1.49 and 2.12 m (M = 1.72 m). We also found that more than half of the visitors returned to paintings, especially those people who had not previously paid too much attention at the initial viewing. After adding the times of returning viewers, each picture was viewed longer than had been estimated in previous research (M = 50.5 s, Mdn = 43.0 s). Results are discussed in the context of current art perception theories, focusing on the need for the ecologically valid testing of artworks in aesthetics research.
Full-text available
The last decade has witnessed a renaissance of empirical and psychological approaches to art study, especially regarding cognitive models of art processing experience. This new emphasis on modeling has often become the basis for our theoretical understanding of human interaction with art. Models also often define areas of focus and hypotheses for new empirical research, and are increasingly important for connecting psychological theory to discussions of the brain. However, models are often made by different researchers, with quite different emphases or visual styles. Inputs and psychological outcomes may be differently considered, or can be under-reported with regards to key functional components. Thus, we may lose the major theoretical improvements and ability for comparison that can be had with models. To begin addressing this, this paper presents a theoretical assessment, comparison, and new articulation of a selection of key contemporary cognitive or information-processing-based approaches detailing the mechanisms underlying the viewing of art. We review six major models in contemporary psychological aesthetics. We in turn present redesigns of these models using a unified visual form, in some cases making additions or creating new models where none had previously existed. We also frame these approaches in respect to their targeted outputs (e.g., emotion, appraisal, physiological reaction) and their strengths within a more general framework of early, intermediate, and later processing stages. This is used as a basis for general comparison and discussion of implications and future directions for modeling, and for theoretically understanding our engagement with visual art.
Full-text available
The field of neuroaesthetics has gained in popularity in recent years but also attracted criticism from the perspectives both of the humanities and the sciences. In an effort to consolidate research in the field, we characterize neuroaesthetics as the cognitive neuroscience of aesthetic experience, drawing on long traditions of research in empirical aesthetics on the one hand and cognitive neuroscience on the other. We clarify the aims and scope of the field, identifying relations among neuroscientific investigations of aesthetics, beauty, and art. The approach we advocate takes as its object of study a wide spectrum of aesthetic experiences, resulting from interactions of individuals, sensory stimuli, and context. Drawing on its parent fields, a cognitive neuroscience of aesthetics would investigate the complex cognitive processes and functional networks of brain regions involved in those experiences without placing a value on them. Thus, the cognitive neuroscientific approach may develop in a way that is mutually complementary to approaches in the humanities.
Art experience means the rich experience of artistic objects that are mostly embedded in situational, social, and cultural contexts: for instance when encountering art in art galleries or museums. Art experience lets us reflect on the content, the style, and the artist behind the artwork—moreover, it lets us reflect about the percept, perception, the world, ultimately: about us. Current works in the field of empirical aesthetics unfortunately often ignore context factors that are so important for such deep and far-reaching experiences. Here I intend to refer to the different paths of measuring art experience via Path #1 by testing within the ecological valid context of art galleries via field studies, via Path #2 by simulating certain contextual and perceptual factors in a lab-oriented study design and via Path #3 by testing art-related material in labs without paying attention to such factors. The way we research art experience drastically changes the quality and nature of the output, especially if we ignore certain essential factors which are typically involved when encountering art galleries in real life via Path #3—mainly because participants do not show the typical motivation, interest and effort which they would typically face in art galleries. Furthermore, because the depiction quality of artworks, the context and the social situation in which they are inspected is fundamentally different in the lab, the respective impression is also very different. As most research ignores such factors, we might often be misled by the results of such studies; especially when the extraordinary and unique cultural status that makes artworks so different to ordinary objects is ignored. The paper aims to guide researchers in finding the right study paradigm and best measures to answer their regarding research questions most adequately.
This case study is an analysis of the art criticism of one undergraduate and eight graduate art education students about the work of contemporary artist Robert Rauschenberg. The purpose of the analysis is to identify the students' use or nonuse of four thinking strategies found in the practice of three professional art critics and to assess implications for classroom art criticism.