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New Research From Psychological Science

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New research published in Psychological Science investigates the ways in which the physical state of our bodies may play a role in shaping what we think, feel, and perceive.

Covert Painting Simulations Influence Aesthetic Appreciation of Artworks

Helmut Leder, Siegrun Bär, and Sascha Topolinski

How does art create aesthetic pleasure? Drawing from existing theory, Helmut Leder of the University of Vienna and his colleagues hypothesized that experiencing a physical resonance with the movements that the artist made when producing the artwork may be one source of aesthetic empathy and, therefore, pleasure. To test this hypothesis, the researchers asked participants to rate the aesthetic value of neoimpressionist, pointillist-style paintings and postimpressionist, stroke-style paintings from the late 19th century. One group was instructed to mimic the stippling or stroke-style movements five minutes before viewing the paintings, while another group mimicked the movements while they were rating the paintings. Those participants who made stippling motions while rating the paintings found the pointillist paintings more aesthetically pleasing, whereas those who mimicked stroking motions while rating the paintings found the stroke-style paintings more aesthetically pleasing. According to the researchers, these results suggest that activating neural circuits associated with the same movements that the artist made when producing the work may influence how viewers experience and perceive works of art.

Tall, Dark, and Stable: Embodiment Motivates Mate Selection Preferences

David R. Kille, Amanda L. Forest, and Joanne V. Wood

Participants sat at a wobbly desk and chair or a stable desk and chair while making judgments about the stability of several well known relationships (Michelle and Barack Obama for instance). Participants also indicated their own preferences for traits in a romantic partner. Researchers found that participants sitting at the unstable desk rated the famous relationships as being more unstable. Participants in the unstable condition also reported traits that represented stability (trustworthiness) as being more important in a prospective romantic partner. This suggests that physical experiences my affect both people’s perceptions and preferences in mates and others in general. Is also suggests that embodied cues can affect motivation.