Beyond the Picture: Elaboration more than Description Enhances Memory and Appreciation for Paintings
Aesthetic preferences involve many factors that determine how people respond to art. For example, the context surrounding photographic art (e.g., titles) influence its aesthetic appeal (Millis, 2001). The present study examines the effect of titles on aesthetic preferences for paintings. We hypothesize that (a) participants will show greater preference for paintings with elaborative titles compared to descriptive titles, and (b) participants will have better memory for paintings with elaborative titles compared to descriptive titles. Participants evaluated images of lesser-known Van Gogh paintings. Prior to the experiment, a sample of students was presented with these paintings along with elaborative and descriptive titles to verify that the titles were valid. In the experiment, all participants were exposed first to paintings without titles. Next, participants were exposed to the same paintings in a randomized order with titles. Titles were either elaborative (evoking a deeper thought process, such as “Water Sustains Life” for a painting of a bridge over a stream) or descriptive (naming objects in the painting, such as “Bridge over Water” for the same painting). Participants were asked questions assessing preferences: if they liked the painting, if they would buy the painting, and if they would hang the painting in their home. A control group also assessed the paintings twice, but without the titles present either time. All participants then completed tasks unrelated to the experiment to distract them from reviewing the paintings. Finally, participants viewed the original paintings intermingled with new Van Gogh paintings to test their memory for the original paintings. Preliminary results show that participants prefer and recall more of the paintings with elaborative titles compared to descriptive or no titles. These results support our hypotheses, suggesting that elaboration enhances one’s experience when viewing paintings, and elaboration also make the paintings more memorable.
Susan T Davis, Mark A Matthews
Primary Advisor's Department
Stander Symposium poster
"Beyond the Picture: Elaboration more than Description Enhances Memory and Appreciation for Paintings" (2018). Stander Symposium Posters. 1340.