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Kohinoor M Darda, Emily Cross; Toward a general model of visual art perception - the role of expertise and culture.. Journal of Vision 2021;21(9):1864. doi: https://doi.org/10.1167/jov.21.9.1864.
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If all humans share a common capacity for experiencing and appreciating artworks, it is plausible that the underlying neural/cognitive mechanisms are also common across cultures. Arts exist in many forms (e.g. paintings, music, dance), have major distinctions (e.g. abstract or representational art), and are enjoyed by art experts and non-experts alike. Extant literature provides little evidence for constructing a general model of the perception of visual art. In the current study, across different art forms (paintings, dance), we investigate whether mechanisms underlying aesthetic appreciation of abstract and representational art are similar/different, are modulated by expertise, and are universal i.e. similar across cultures. In Experiment 1, participants (N=100) from India and Europe (50 experts, 50 non-experts) rated Indian and Western abstract and representational paintings on beauty and liking (and familiarity, evocativeness, complexity). Preliminary results suggest that representational paintings were liked more and found to be more beautiful compared to abstract paintings, but only for non-experts. This interaction was consistent across both cultures of participants and paintings (Indian/Western) and there was no evidence of an ingroup bias – Indian participants did not prefer Indian paintings more than western paintings. In Experiment 2, instead of paintings, dance experts and non-experts rated abstract and representational ballet (western classical) and Bharatanatyam (Indian classical) dance videos. Experiments 3 and 4 are ongoing and investigate the neural mechanisms of visual art appreciation across cultures and expertise. Almost all cultures around the world produce or perform artworks that are appreciated for their aesthetic or artistic qualities. The current findings have implications for building a generalizable model of the perception of visual art that is inclusive of different art forms as well as cultures.
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