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Astrid Schepman, Paul Rodway, Sarah J. Pullen; Greater cross-viewer similarity of semantic associations for representational than for abstract artworks. Journal of Vision 2015;15(14):12. doi: 10.1167/15.14.12.
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© ARVO (1962-2015); The Authors (2016-present)
It has been shown previously that liking and valence of associations in response to artworks show greater convergence across viewers for representational than for abstract artwork. The current research explored whether the same applies to the semantic content of the associations. We used data gained with an adapted unique corporate association valence measure, which invited 24 participants to give short verbal responses to 11 abstract and 11 representational artworks. We paired the responses randomly to responses given to the same artwork and computed semantic similarity scores using UMBC Ebiquity software. This showed significantly greater semantic similarity scores for representational than for abstract art. A control analysis in which responses were randomly paired with responses from the same category (abstract, representational) showed no significant results, ruling out a baseline effect. For both abstract and representational artworks, randomly paired responses resembled each other less than responses from the same artworks, but the effect was much larger for representational artworks. Our work shows that individuals share semantic associations with other viewers in response to artworks to a greater extent when the artwork is representational than when it is abstract. Our novel method shows potential utility for many areas of psychology that aim to understand the semantic convergence of people's verbal responses, not least aesthetic psychology.
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