Semantic Priming with Art



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The purpose of this study is to understand the effect of viewing art on cognitive processes. This thesis uses a well-established priming paradigm to examine how people respond to styles of art with varying degrees of unexpectedness (realism, surrealism, and abstraction). Sixty-one participants completed the priming task. The results replicated the classic priming effect for the realistic images in which participants responded faster to related pairs of images than unrelated pairs of images. When presented with surreal paintings the reaction time slowed, suggesting that viewing paintings that are unexpected yet meaningful (and perhaps by extension creative) slows down cognitive processes. Completely non-representational art remains a mystery as the responses to abstract art were not significantly different from the realistic related paintings. Future studies should recruit participants with more artistic training to determine if there may be individual differences related to experience with art that influence the response to non-representational art.



Visual arts, Creativity, Efficiency, Prediction coding, Priming