Physiological correlates of aesthetic perception of artworks in a museum

Tschacher, Wolfgang; Greenwood, Steven; Kirchberg, Volker; Wintzerith, Stéphanie; van den Berg, Karen; Tröndle, Martin (2012). Physiological correlates of aesthetic perception of artworks in a museum. Psychology of aesthetics, creativity, and the arts, 6(1), pp. 96-103. Washington, D.C.: American Psychological Association 10.1037/a0023845

Full text not available from this repository. (Request a copy)

Arts experts are commonly skeptical of applying scientific methods to aesthetic experiencing, which remains a field of study predominantly for the humanities. Laboratory research has however indicated that artworks may elicit emotional and physiological responses. Yet, this line of aesthetics research has previously suffered from insufficient external validity. We therefore conducted a study in which aesthetic perception was monitored in a fine-art museum, unrestricting to the viewers’ freedom of aesthetic choice. Visitors were invited to wear electronic gloves through which their locomotion, heart rate and skin conductance were continuously recorded. Emotional and aesthetic responses to selected works of an exhibition were assessed using a customized questionnaire. In a sample of 373 adult participants, we found that physiological responses during perception of an artwork were significantly related to aesthetic-emotional experiencing. The dimensions ‘Aesthetic Quality’, ‘Surprise/Humor’, ‘Dominance’ and ‘Curatorial Quality’ were associated with cardiac measures (heart rate variability, heart rate level) and skin conductance variability. This is first evidence that aesthetics can be statistically grounded in viewers’ physiology in an ecologically valid environment, the art gallery, enhancing our understanding of the effects of artworks and their curatorial staging.

Item Type:

Journal Article (Original Article)


04 Faculty of Medicine > University Psychiatric Services > University Hospital of Psychiatry and Psychotherapy > Psychotherapy

UniBE Contributor:

Tschacher, Wolfgang




American Psychological Association




Factscience Import

Date Deposited:

04 Oct 2013 14:39

Last Modified:

07 Mar 2017 07:35

Publisher DOI:


Web of Science ID:


URI: (FactScience: 223481)

Actions (login required)

Edit item Edit item
Provide Feedback