Effort after meaning and the hedonic value of paintings

Authors

  • Phil A. Russell

    Corresponding author
    1. Psychology Department, University of Aberdeen, UK
      Psychology Department, William Guild Building, University of Aberdeen, Aberdeen AB24 2UB, UK (p.russell@abdn.ac.uk).
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Psychology Department, William Guild Building, University of Aberdeen, Aberdeen AB24 2UB, UK (p.russell@abdn.ac.uk).

Abstract

Two experiments tested the prediction that providing the viewer with information about abstract and semi-abstract paintings, in the form of titles and descriptions, would increase the paintings' perceived meaningfulness and hedonic value. The meaningfulness prediction was supported in both experiments. The results of one experiment, using a between-participants design, failed to support the hedonic value prediction, but the results of the other, using a within-participants design, supported the prediction. Failure to find an effect of information on hedonic value in other experiments may result from the use of between-participants designs that are relatively insensitive to the effects of different evaluative conditions. The results are discussed in the light of the ‘effort after meaning’ theory that part of the pleasure derived from looking at a painting stems from making a successful interpretation of it and picking up the artist's message.

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