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Psychology professor publishes research on the significance of emotions and art

February 17, 2012

Kendall J. Eskine, Ph.D., assistant professor of psychology at Loyola University New Orleans, recently had his manuscript, “Stirring Images: Fear, Not Happiness or Arousal, Makes Art More Sublime,” accepted and published in Emotion, a top-ranked psychology journal of the American Psychological Association.

According to Eskine’s work, although recent evidence from neuroscience suggests that emotions play a critical role in art perception, no research to date has explored the extent to which specific emotional states affect aesthetic experiences or whether general physiological arousal is sufficient.

Participants in Eskine’s experiment were assigned to one of five conditions—sitting normally, engaging in 15 or 30 jumping jacks, or viewing a happy or scary video—prior to rating abstract works of art. The experiment showed that fear, as opposed to happiness or general physiological arousal (e.g. accelerated heart beat), made participants more excited about art.

These findings provide the first evidence that fear uniquely inspires intrinsically attractive aesthetic judgments, which is important because it shows how critical emotional states are in determining judgments about aesthetics.

For more information, contact Eskine at 504-865-2270 or kjeskine@loyno.edu.

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