Mere Exposure to Bad Art

One of the precursors to our project is the paper “Mere Exposure to Bad Art” by Aaron Meskin, Mark Phelan, Margaret Moore, and Matthew Kieran. Here is a quick synopsis:

In a 2003 study, psychologist James Cutting briefly exposed undergraduate psychology students to canonical and lesser-known Impressionist paintings (the lesser-known works were exposed four times as often), with the result that after exposure, subjects preferred the lesser-known works more often than did a group of students who had not been exposed. Cutting concluded that mere exposure explains a great deal about the formation of artistic canons. If he’s right, then repeated viewing of the ‘bad art’ on Tumblr might make you like it more.

We reported findings suggesting that increased exposure to art works does not necessarily make people like them more. Instead, the quality of an art work remains at the heart of its evaluation.

After its publication, the paper received a good deal of press. Here is a sample:

Related Research Output:

Aaron Meskin, Mark Phelan, Margaret Moore, and Matthew Kieran (2013). Mere Exposure to Bad Art. British Journal of Aesthetics 53(2): 139–164. DOI:10.1093/aesthj/ays060


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