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Dominik Welke, Isaac Purton, Edward A. Vessel; The power of visual art: Higher felt inspiration following aesthetically pleasing visual prompts in a creative writing task. Journal of Vision 2019;19(10):97a. doi: https://doi.org/10.1167/19.10.97a.
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Anecdotal reports indicate that visual art might be particularly potent in inducing moments of “creative inspiration” – a state that can be described as externally evoked motivation for creative activity (Thrash & Elliot 2004). In two behavioral experiments we tested the hypothesis that visual aesthetic experiences can increase self-reported creative inspiration by presenting ‘aesthetic’ and ‘non-aesthetic’ visual stimuli as prompts in a creative writing task. In Experiment 1, 25 participants were shown prompts (10s) consisting of 6 previously high-rated visual artworks (aesthetic prompt) or 6 triads of unrelated words (non-aesthetic prompt) and after every prompt were given three minutes to write a short creative vignette. Participants then rated how “inspired” they had felt during idea generation. Responses were taken to fit linear-mixed-effects-regression models (LMM). Ratings of felt inspiration were significantly higher for aesthetic vs non-aesthetic prompts (p < 0.001). In Experiment 2, 34 participants performed the same task with prompts consisting of 4 previously high-rated artworks (liked), 4 previously low-rated artworks (disliked), or 4 previously unseen artworks (novel, preference rated post-hoc). Pre-exposure to the stimuli (known vs. novel) had no significant effect (p = 0.71), while felt inspiration was significantly higher for liked vs. disliked prompts (p = 0.0013). Furthermore, we observed a significant linear relation between rated inspiration and post-hoc aesthetic rating in novel stimuli (p < 0.001). Our results provide initial support for the hypothesis that states of aesthetic appreciation evoked by visual art can increase the incidence of felt inspiration. This being true, states of “aesthetic appreciation” and “creative inspiration” should share certain mental and neural resources. Our findings have implications for further studies of aesthetic- and creative processes as well as for the potential role of the arts in educational settings.
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