• Shared meaning in children’s evaluations of art: A computational analysis

      Schepman, Astrid; Rodway, Paul; Kirkham, Julie A.; Lambert, Jordana; Locke, Anastasia; University of Chester (American Psychological Association, 2018-11-31)
      Art appreciation is often considered highly individual, but research has shown that there is also a shared element, which may be due to shared meanings and associations triggered by artworks. In the current analysis, we examined semantically based justifications given to aesthetic evaluations of abstract and representational artworks provided by 80 primary schoolchildren, aged 4, 5, 8, and 10 years. Using a computational semantic similarity analysis technique (UMBC Ebiquity), the authors found that children showed evidence for shared meaning in response to representational but not abstract art. The effect was present from age 4 through to age 10. In addition, it was found that the presence of semantic elements in the justifications boosted aesthetic appreciation, especially of abstract artworks. This suggests that individually constructed meaning is key to aesthetic appreciation and is, to an extent, independent from the meaning that might be assumed to be inherent in artworks, particularly if it is representational. The authors evaluate their findings in relation to aesthetic and developmental theories and make suggestions for future research. They argue that the current data, alongside calibrating analyses that apply their randomization and semantic analysis protocol to children’s picture naming responses, further demonstrate the robustness of the computational semantic similarity analysis method, with great potential for further studies in semantic interpretation of art or other types of stimuli.