In cubist paintings by Picasso, Braque and Gris it is possible to detect everyday objects like guitars, bottles or jugs, although they are often difficult to decipher. In this art-science collaborative study we found that participants without expertise in cubism appreciated cubist artworks more if they were able to detect concealed objects in them. The finding of this strong correlation between detectability and preference offers wide implications for art history and human cognition as it points to a mechanism that allows us to derive pleasure from searching for and finding meaningful patterns.
Reptile prime ministers and flying Nazi saucers—extreme and sometimes off-wall conclusion are typical ingredients of conspiracy theories. While individual differences are a common research topic concerning conspiracy theories, the role of extreme statements in the process of acquiring and passing on conspiratorial stories has not been regarded in an experimental design so far. We identified six morphological components of conspiracy theories empirically. On the basis of these content categories a set of narrative elements for a 9/11 story was compiled. These elements varied systematically in terms of conspiratorial allegation, i.e., they contained official statements concerning the events of 9/11, statements alleging to a conspiracy limited in time and space as well as extreme statements indicating an all-encompassing cover-up. Using the method of narrative construction, 30 people were given a set of cards with these statements and asked to construct the course of events of 9/11 they deem most plausible. When extreme statements were present in the set, the resulting stories were more conspiratorial; the number of official statements included in the narrative dropped significantly, whereas the self-assessment of the story's plausibility did not differ between conditions. This indicates that blatant statements in a pool of information foster the synthesis of conspiracy theories on an individual level. By relating these findings to one of Germany's most successful (and controversial) non-fiction books, we refer to the real-world dangers of this effect.
Recent studies on conspiracy theories employ standardized questionnaires, thus neglecting their narrative qualities by reducing them to mere statements. Recipients are considered as consumers only. Two empirical studies—a conventional survey (n = 63) and a study using the method of narrative construction (n = 30)—which were recently conducted by the authors of this paper—suggest that the truth about conspiracy theories is more complex. Given a set of statements about a dramatic historic event (in our case 9/11) that includes official testimonies, allegations to a conspiracy and extremely conspiratorial statements, the majority of participants created a narrative of 9/11 they deemed plausible that might be considered a conspiracy theory. The resulting 30 idiosyncratic stories imply that no clear distinction between official story and conspiratorial narrative is possible any more when the common approach of questionnaires is abandoned. Based on these findings, we present a new theoretical and methodological approach which acknowledges conspiracy theories as a means of constructing and communicating a set of personal values. While broadening the view upon such theories, we stay compatible with other approaches that have focused on extreme theory types. In our view, accepting conspiracy theories as a common, regulative and possibly benign phenomenon, we will be better able to understand why some people cling to immunized, racist and off-wall stories—and others do not.
Abstract. Medieval times were neither dark nor grey; natural light illuminated colourful scenes
depicted in paintings through coloured windows and via artificial beeswax candlelight. When we
enter, for example, a church to inspect its historic treasures ranging from mosaics to depictions of
saints, we do this under quite unfavourable conditions; particularly as we mainly depend on artificial
halogen, LED or fluorescent light for illuminating the desired object. As these light spectrums
are different from the natural light conditions under which the old masterpieces were previously
developed and perceived, the perceptual effects may dramatically differ, leading to significantly
altered affective and cognitive processing. Different qualities of processing might particularly be
triggered when perceiving artworks which deal with specific material prone to strong interaction with
idiosyncratic light conditions, for instance gold-leafed surfaces that literally start to glow when lit
by candles. We tested the perceptual experiences of a figurative piece of art which we created in
3 (foreground) by 3 (background) versions, illuminated under three different light conditions (daylight,
coloured light and beeswax candlelight). Results demonstrated very different perceptual experiences
with stunning effects for the interaction of the specific painting depicted on a gold-leafed background
lit by candlelight.
For several of Leonardo da Vinci's paintings, such as The Virgin and Child with St. Anne or the Mona Lisa, there exist copies produced by his own studio. In case of the Mona Lisa a quite exceptional, re-discovered studio copy was presented to the public in 2012 by the Prado Museum in Madrid. Not only does it mirror its famous counterpart superficially, it also features the very same corrections to the lower layers, which indicates that da Vinci and the "copyist" must have elaborated their panels simultaneously. On the basis of subjective (N=32 participants estimated painter-model constellations) as well as objective data (analysis of trajectories between landmarks of both paintings), we revealed that both versions differ slightly in perspective. We reconstructed the original studio setting and found evidence that the disparity between both paintings mimics human binocular disparity. This points to the possibility that the two Giocondas together might represent the first stereoscopic image in world history.
Nurmoja, Eamets, Härma, and Bachmann (2012) revealed that
strongly pixelated pictures of faces still provide relevant cues for reliably assessing
the apparent (i.e., subjectively perceived) traits of the portrayed. The present article
responds to the paper by developing the outline of a framework for future research
to reveal certain steps in processing complex visual stimuli. This framework combines
the approach of degradation of the stimuli with the so-called microgenetic
approach of percepts based on presentation time limitations. The proposed combination
of a particular kind of stimulus manipulation and a specifi c experimental
procedure allows testing targeted assumptions concerning visual processing, not
only in the domain of face perception, but in all domains involving complex visual
stimuli, for example, art perception.
Spatial relations of our environment are represented in cognitive maps. These cognitive maps are prone to various distortions (e.g., alignment and hierarchical effects) caused by basic cognitive factors (such as perceptual and conceptual reorganization) but also by affectively loaded and attitudinal influences. Here we show that even differences in attitude towards a single person repre-
senting a foreign country (here Barack Obama and the USA) can be related to drastic differences in the cognitive representation of distances concerning that country. Europeans who had a positive attitude towards Obama’s first presidential program estimated distances between US and European cities as being much smaller than did people who were skeptical or negative towards Obama's ideas. On the basis of this result and existing literature, arguments on the non-unitary and flexible nature of cognitive maps are discussed.