The Loh Down On Science

The secret to appreciating abstract art

How can you learn to enjoy abstract art?  Here’s the scary answer!

This is Sandra Loh with the Loh Down on Science. 

We know that art can affect us emotionally.  But is the opposite true?  Do emotions affect our perception of art?

To find out, social scientists at Brooklyn College randomly assigned students to one of three conditions:  emotional arousal; physical arousal; or no arousal.  Their words, not ours—so don’t send us letters.

To induce the relevant emotion, students in the emotion group watched either a scary or happy video.  Students in the physical group did either fifteen or thirty jumping jacks.  The control group?  Just sat around.
 
Later, everyone was asked to rate Russian artist El Lissitsky’s abstract geometric art.  You gotta love college! 

Results?  The scared group rated the art most favorably!

Why?  Unclear.  It could be related to our fight or flight instinct—the fact that our senses are on high alert when we're scared.

Yeah, scared we might be asked to explain the abstract art!  Oh, the horror!

***** For more 90-SECOND SCIENCE FACTS, click here.*****

The Loh Down on Science is produced by LDOS Media Lab, with 89.3 KPCC. And made possible by the generous support of the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation.

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