From Division 10, Amn Psychological Assn.

                      --With warm regards,


---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: Judith Schlesinger <[log in to unmask]>
Date: Sun, Apr 15, 2012 at 11:01 AM
Subject: Re: [DIV10] Does Experiencing Great Art Make Us Better Persons?
To: [log in to unmask]

Glad somebody pointed out the empirical mushiness of the terms.  Depending on the social circle, the perceiver, and a myriad of other factors, "better" could mean "slimmer," "more adept with garden maintenance," "more moral," or even "Republican."
Judith Schlesinger, PhD
Author of The Insanity Hoax: Exposing the myth of the mad genius

From: Division 10 Members list [mailto:[log in to unmask]] On Behalf Of Tammy Pannells
Sent: Saturday, April 14, 2012 11:15 PM
To: [log in to unmask]

Subject: Re: [DIV10] Does Experiencing Great Art Make Us Better Persons?

To be sure we are talking about the same concepts and perspectives of the varailabe, do we need to operationalize a few terms, like "better" person and "exemplary materpieces?"  I immediately jumped to one set of developemtnal literature based on my schemas while reading the original question and then changed some of my thoughts and different views based on what others were assuming to be "better person" as I continued to read the responses. I am assumng we are talking about only adults??
Tammy C. Pannells, PhD
Assistant Professor of Psychology
Division of Social Sciences
University of Minnesota, Morris
Office: (320) 589-6211
Cell: (320) 288 8703

From: Jeffrey Smith <[log in to unmask]>
To: [log in to unmask]
Sent: Saturday, April 14, 2012 7:43 PM
Subject: Re: [DIV10] Does Experiencing Great Art Make Us Better Persons?

Hi Dean,

Actually have some quasi-experimental data that confirm just this hypothesis.  I presented them at the Arnheim Award address and will have them in PACA sometime soon. 

What we found was that people in an art museum show higher levels of concern about intrarpersonal issues, interpersonal issues, and societal issues midway through a visit than people at the beginning of such a visit, and to a degree, at the end of the visit (results there a bit mixed).  We think that the art encounters, which are multiple and typically short in duration, build cumulatively in terms of people being reflective about who they are and what their lives are about.

I can get you some rough stuff on this when we are back in NZ (at AERA right now), and then a draft of the Arnheim address when it's ready to submit to PACA. 

This is where I'm investing most of my research efforts right now in terms of aesthetics.  We have an instrument that measures the qualities mentioned above that I developed with some Rutgers political science colleagues for evaluating citizenship programs.

Send me an email off the listserv, and we can chat about it!


On Sun, Apr 15, 2012 at 12:17 PM, Marilyn Charles <[log in to unmask]> wrote:
Have you read The Age of Insight by Eric Kandel?

Marilyn Charles

On 4/14/12 4:46 PM, Richard Hass wrote:
I would think you would find something within the developmental literature. If not, you will soon since I'm planning to start tackling this very question applied to music and art education in the coming months (good timing)!

I think that the question is also directly related to the development of creative thoughts and achievements. John Sloboda has investigated the early experiences of music achievers and found positive links between early emotional experiences involving music appreciation and later performance achievements.

Good luck!

Sent from my iPhone

On Apr 14, 2012, at 5:36 PM, "Dean Keith Simonton"<[log in to unmask]EDU>  wrote:

Hi, All ~

I'm hoping that one or more list members will help me address a question
that (a) can be considered central in our psychological understanding of
both aesthetics and artistic creativity and yet (b) seems neglected in the
empirical research, at least to my knowledge. The question was inspired by
my current efforts to assemble a Handbook of Genius to be published by
Wiley-Blackwell sometime in 2014. Struggling to cover all possible
perspectives on the phenomenon, one perspective seems especially allusive:
What are the enduring psychological benefits of appreciating the exemplary
masterworks in literature, music, art, cinema, etc.? Does deep exposure to
Hamlet, Beethoven's 5th, the Sistine Chapel frescoes, or Citizen Kane make
us happier or wiser? Are any positive consequences specific to these works
or can they also be induced by lesser creations by the same authors, such
as Titus Andronicus or Beethoven's 4th? In terms of lasting gains, is one
Jane Austen novel just as good as any other, Northanger Abbey doing as
well as Pride and Prejudice? For that matter, are the psychological
improvements acquired from reading Austen no different from reading other
novels by now obscure authors writing in the same literary genre? In
visiting an art museum, should we allot viewing time randomly rather than
concentrating on the greatest paintings, sculptures, and videos in the
collection? In short, do we really become better people intentionally
absorbing the best that artistic geniuses have to offer? Or, does
mediocrity work just fine, thank you? Art is art after all. Perhaps it's
snobbish elitism to think that we gain more as human beings from Ingmar
Bergman’s films rather than those of Ed Wood.

I realize at once the difficulty of these questions. Few if any standard
methodologies are well equipped to provide answers. Laboratory experiments
can only concentrate on short-term effects, such as momentary changes in
affect or mood. Correlational studies can report suggestive long-term
associations - such as the relation between artistic appreciation and
openness to experience - but without pinpointing the nature of the causal
relation (e.g., appreciation may just be one of several assets of being
experientially open). Case studies must certainly be available - I'm sure
many list members can give testimonials to what they have permanently
gained from this or that aesthetic experience - and yet such records
suffer from insufficient generalizability. We all have our idiosyncratic
epiphanies. Making matters worse, a scientific solution to this problem
requires that we control for sundry extraneous factors, such as repeated
exposure (familiarity) effects and "prestige suggestion." Saying that we
gain some comforts from viewing the familiar by the familiar helps little.
Great art then becomes a can of Campbell's chicken soup.

Note that these questions do not have to be asked with respect to the
great discoveries and inventions of scientific geniuses. That's because
the validity of their contributions is verified by their fellow
scientists, not by a larger audience. We know that Einstein's derivation
of the mass-energy equivalence equation surpasses Hasenöhrl's rival
derivation because the experts say so (anti-Semites like Lenard
notwithstanding). We know that Einstein's unified field theory was a bust
for the same reason. And, besides, this is mere intellectual curiosity
anyway. The knowledge of "truth" probably has a different psychological
status than the experience of "beauty." Less personal, less emotional,
perhaps even less meaningful.

I apologize for the length of this inquiry. This question doesn't lend
itself to a quick database search either. I’m hoping that someone knows a
chapter, article, or book dealing with this subject. Does experiencing
great art make us better persons?

Thanks in advance!

~ Best, Dean

Professor Jeffrey Smith
University of Otago
College of Education
+ 643 479 5467
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