Poster A135, Saturday, March 25, 5:00 – 7:00 pm, Pacific Concourse
Levels of Mental Construal Involved in Processing Abstract and Representational Art
Celia Durkin1, Eileen Hartnett2, Eric Kandel3, Daphna Shohamy4; 1University of California, San Diego, 2Columbia University, 3Columbia University, 4Columbia University
Does art have the capacity to affect a viewer’s state of mind and, if so, do different levels of artistic abstraction affect cognition in different ways? The current study is designed to begin addressing these questions. We hypothesized that abstract art and representational art evoke different cognitive states. To test this hypothesis, we applied to art Construal Level Theory, which has shown that distant future events are construed more highly than near future events. Here, we utilize temporal distance to measure mental construal evoked by abstract and representational paintings. Subjects were shown both abstract and representational paintings by the same artist and asked to assign each painting to a situation that was temporally near or distant (i.e. a gallery opening tomorrow vs. a gallery opening in a year). Building on prior findings of Construal Level Theory, we hypothesized that abstract art would elicit a higher mental construal, and would therefore be placed more often in a temporally distant category when compared to representational art. Results from three separate datasets were consistent with this hypothesis: abstract paintings were assigned to the temporally distant situation significantly more often than were representational paintings, indicating that abstract art evokes higher mental construal compared to representational art. Our data suggest that compared to representational art, abstract art may have differential effects on cognition, and that Construal Level Theory provides a useful new empirical approach to the analysis of cognitive states evoked by different levels of artistic abstraction.
Topic Area: OTHER