• The Development of Shared Liking of Representational but not Abstract Art in Primary School Children and Their Justifications for Liking

      Rodway, Paul; Kirkham, Julie A.; Schepman, Astrid; Lambert, Jordana; Locke, Anastasia; University of Chester (Frontiers, 2016-02-05)
      Understanding how aesthetic preferences are shared among individuals, and its developmental time course, is a fundamental question in aesthetics. It has been shown that semantic associations, in response to representational artworks, overlap more strongly among individuals than those generated by abstract artworks and that the emotional valence of the associations also overlaps more for representational artworks. This valence response may be a key driver in aesthetic appreciation. The current study tested predictions derived from the semantic association account in a developmental context. Twenty 4-, 6-, 8- and 10-year-old children (n = 80) were shown 20 artworks (10 representational, 10 abstract) and were asked to rate each artwork and to explain their decision. Cross-observer agreement in aesthetic preferences increased with age from 4–8 years for both abstract and representational art. However, after age 6 the level of shared appreciation for representational and abstract artworks diverged, with significantly higher levels of agreement for representational than abstract artworks at age 8 and 10. The most common justifications for representational artworks involved subject matter, while for abstract artworks formal artistic properties and color were the most commonly used justifications. Representational artwork also showed a significantly higher proportion of associations and emotional responses than abstract artworks. In line with predictions from developmental cognitive neuroscience, references to the artist as an agent increased between ages 4 and 6 and again between ages 6 and 8, following the development of Theory of Mind. The findings support the view that increased experience with representational content during the life span reduces inter-individual variation in aesthetic appreciation and increases shared preferences. In addition, brain and cognitive development appear to impact on art appreciation at milestone ages.