• 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.
    • 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.