Psychology of the Arts

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By Jen Katz-Buonincontro, PhD, MFA

Psychological research on the arts is interdisciplinary, and covers a wide range of aims, methodological approaches, and contexts. The definition of art, types of art forms and research topics have rapidly expanded over the last fifty years. “Art” spans classical forms, like the visual arts, creative writing/poetry, theatre/performance (video/film), music, and dance and contemporary forms like animation, game design and other technology-based art experiences. The arts also include craft traditions, like quilts or egg decorations, linked to preserving heritage and identity across Western and non-Western cultures alike. Each of these forms of art suggest compelling types of creative expression and aesthetic appreciation that lends itself to various research investigations. Contexts for researching the arts includes the actual site of an art performance, schools, museums, public venues or controlled psychological experiments. Topics of investigation include problem finding, experimental aesthetics, creative art therapy, aesthetic understanding, flow, collaborative improvisation, arts education and leadership development. In addition, researchers have examined the impact of arts education on general academic and psychosocial outcomes.

Recent relevant publications for suggested reading:

Barone, T. & Eisner, E.W. (2012). Arts-based research. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

Sawyer, R. K. (2012). The science of human innovation: Explaining creativity. New York: Oxford.

Winner, E., Goldstein, T.E., & Vincent-Lancrin, S. (2013). Art for art’s sake? The impact of arts education. Centre for Educational Research and Innovation. OECD.