Anyway, I have plenty of snobby friends who think my love of good television (and Diet Coke, for that matter) betrays my 25 years of education, which makes me wonder how I could be so wrong and they could be so right. Well, at the APS meeting I attended this past weekend, I saw a talk by Paul Bloom, a Yale developmental psychologist (and someone about whom I have blogged before), titled "But is it Art?" He recently studied how young children perceive art and discussed his findings in the context of broader philosophical theories of art. Among the various points he made (I didn't take notes, so I'm doing this from memory):
- Adults and children place special value on artistic reproductions of the real world. This explains the preference most people have for portaits, landscapes, pictures of still life, etc.
- Adults and children prefer original works of creation over perfect copies. Think about how everyone reacts to the news that a revered painting by a great master is actually a forgery. Three-year-olds have this same response when they are given a chance to have an exact replica of their favorite attachment blanket or toy instead of the original.
- The more we (and children) perceive that the artist labored, the more we value the end product. Bloom cited a study in which subjects reported liking an abstract painting more when they learned that the artist spent 28 hours or so on it, compared to a condition in which subjects were told that the artist spent 9 hours creating the same work of art.
- Adults and children recognize that the artist's intention is more important in appraising the art than what the end product actually resembles. As Bloom noted, tell a young child that the stick figure that she has just drawn not only looks like "mommy," but everyone else in the family, and you'll end up with a very upset child.