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Journal Article

Art schema effects on affective experience: The case of disgusting images


Wagner,  Valentin
Cluster of Excellence “Languages of Emotion,” Freie Universität Berlin;
Department of Language and Literature, Max Planck Institute for Empirical Aesthetics, Max Planck Society;

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Wagner, V., Menninghaus, W., Hanich, J., & Jacobsen, T. (2014). Art schema effects on affective experience: The case of disgusting images. Psychology of Aesthetics, Creativity, and the Arts, 8(2), 120-129. doi:10.1037/a0036126.

Cite as: http://hdl.handle.net/11858/00-001M-0000-0023-DA19-A
Can we experience depictions of repulsive objects more positively when we watch them as part of a work of art? We addressed this question by using a scenario approach in a laboratory setting designed to activate two different cognitive schemata: participants viewed the same pictures framed either as art photographs or as documentary photographs for educational purposes. Self-reports of the positivity, the negativity, and the intensity of the affective responses yielded three results. First, participants experienced the photos more positively in the art-framing condition. Second, the negativity ratings did not differ in both conditions, suggesting that art framing does not erase, diminish, or convert the negative affect vis-à-vis the disgusting stimulus features. Third, there was no difference in terms of the intensity of the experience—a result that contradicts the position that aesthetic emotions are less intense than ordinary emotions. The results of our study suggest that cognitive schema activation should be included in a multifactor psychological account of the aesthetic enjoyment of artworks that involve negative emotions. More specifically, results add to the growing insight into what distinguishes aesthetically modified emotions from ordinary emotions.