Art appreciation defined through psychology

It is interesting that with increased intelligence the desire to analyse things also seems to increase. Human morality seems to be a concept that is related to intelligence as is the concept of divinity. Looking at human behaviour it seems that nothing is exempt from analysis. As human’s we even analyse the driving forces of behaviour, putting that study under the heading of psychology…intelligence analysing itself and its own motivation.

This ongoing study of psychology has, among other things, resulted in theories and models that put forward a notion of the existence of mental states (states of mind or moods). Models have been developed that classify or categorise a range of metal states. In these models emotions have been defined as both a communicative term to describe a mental state or mood and also a participant in inducing mental states or moods. To make things even more complicated numerous discourse also suggests that moods influence perception that drives emotion.

It is a highly intangible field of study that brings us around to art appreciation. It appears from observation that intelligence and art appreciation are related. Humans often create art for no other purpose than appreciation. It can have an influence on our state of mind (mood) through emotional responses.

Art entertains us, whether fleetingly or for quite some duration, on occasions or regularly. Either some emotion is stimulated, or our cognitive functions are entertained. Humans are able to ascertain whether performing arts serve a primal, or communicative purpose, or are purely for appreciation. Non performing arts are less likely to serve any primal purpose; that is they play little, if any part in human survival, but they do excite our emotions to varying degrees and that enriches our life experience.

When it comes to non performing visual arts such as sculpture, architecture, drawings, paintings, art decor images through photography or technology and a range of crafts, the art side of their purpose seems to be aimed squarely at appreciation to those intelligent enough to recognise that. So how is this appreciation defined!

This brings us back to psychology. Whether this art portrays a story in unwritten or spoken words or it is purely aesthetic, in empathising with the artist we appreciate the thought, skill and effort they went to. Further more if the work portrays a mood, then it stimulates emotions that allow us to relate to that mood. This is where art starts to become subjective. Individuals all have individual life experiences, so how we perceive mood is related to our own pool of emotional experiences built up over time.

Of course by the definition of appreciate, any positive emotional experiences drive us to holding the work in greater esteem. Although art is very subjective to individual tastes, there is a commonality in human appreciation.

There are times when a work deliberately sets out to portray dark, sinister or undesirable moods that may stimulate negative emotions. The objective is not being ‘to be liked’, but to attract attention. The appreciation for the work is then in the skill and effort of the artist and how well the work stimulates these emotions to portray the intended mood. It becomes a combination of aesthetics and story telling…visual emotional stimuli and cognitive reasoning, or entertainment. This is often the case in photojournalism, where the art is in the ease of interpreting a story from the visuals, rather than pleasant visual aesthetics.

Art has it roots in psychology and thus can be quite complex to define. A successful artist manages to capture mood in their work, but as we now know, mood is related to personal life experiences. If the objective of an artist is to be recognised for their talent, then they must understand mood and emotion, for it is these that drive ‘wow factor’ and ‘wow factor’ that attracts attention. The relationship between mood and emotion is symbiotic; they play on each other. To that end,  a list of moods and emotions to focus on can be found at this URL



Psychology of Mood and emotion:

This article was an undergrad student effort, researched (through discourse) and written by Gavin Lardner, CCBY 2015


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