It is common knowledge that art makes people feel things but now there is research to back that up. A new study revealed that visual art has a powerful effect on emotions. The researchers recorded the eye movements of people as they viewed different kinds of artworks and described how they made them feel.
The study included 1,186 participants from different countries and the emotions evoked by over 300 artworks were assessed by the researchers. The research was conducted using online surveys and eye movement recordings, according to a press statement by the University of Turku.
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"Viewing the art evoked many different kinds of feelings and emotions in people. Even though many of the pieces handled sad or scary topics, the emotions that the people experienced were mainly positive. The bodily sensations evoked by art also contributed to the emotions: the stronger the body's reaction was to the artwork, the stronger were the emotions experienced by the subject," says Professor Lauri Nummenmaa from the Turku PET Centre at the University of Turku, Finland in the statement.
Among the artworks used in the research, people looked at human figures the most and it was considered an interesting subject. People tend to empathise with each other’s emotions and this could be an emotion that they felt when viewing human figures. “The human emotions presented in art pieces can be absorbed by the viewer unnoticed, through so-called mirroring," says academician Riitta Hari from Aalto University in the statement.
The result suggests that our bodies have a significant role in the art-viewing experience. Bodily sensations can attract people to art, while art can evoke feelings. “Such stimulation of the body's pleasure centres feels pleasant to the viewer. This is why the emotions and bodily sensations evoked by art can be used, for example, in mental health rehabilitation and care," Nummenmaa explains.
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