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Greater cross-viewer similarity of semantic associations for representational than for abstract artworksIt has been shown previously that liking and valence of associations in response to artworks show greater convergence across viewers for representational than for abstract artwork. The current research explored whether the same applies to the semantic content of the associations. We used data gained with an adapted Unique Corporate Association Valence (UCAV) measure, which invited 24 participants to give short verbal responses to 11 abstract and 11 representational artworks. We paired the responses randomly to responses given to the same artwork, and computed semantic similarity scores using UMBC Ebiquity software. This showed significantly greater semantic similarity scores for representational than abstract art. A control analysis, in which responses were randomly paired with responses from the same category (abstract, representational) showed no significant results, ruling out a baseline effect. For both abstract and representational artworks, randomly paired responses resembled each other less than responses from the same artworks, but the effect was much larger for representational artworks. Our work shows that individuals share semantic associations in response to artworks with other viewers to a greater extent when the artwork is representational than abstract. Our novel method shows potential utility for many areas of psychology that aim to understand the semantic convergence of people’s verbal responses, not least aesthetic psychology.
Shared liking and association valence for representational art but not abstract artWe examined the finding that aesthetic evaluations are more similar across observers for representational images than for abstract images. It has been proposed that a difference in convergence of observers' tastes is due to differing levels of shared semantic associations (Vessel & Rubin, 2010). In Experiment 1, student participants rated 20 representational and 20 abstract artworks. We found that their judgments were more similar for representational than abstract artworks. In Experiment 2, we replicated this finding, and also found that valence ratings given to associations and meanings provided in response to the artworks converged more across observers for representational than for abstract art. Our empirical work provides insight into processes that may underlie the observation that taste for representational art is shared across individual observers, while taste for abstract art is more idiosyncratic.