Eccentricity influences perceptions of artists: UL study

Anne Sheridan

Reporter:

Anne Sheridan

Eccentricity matters: Van Gogh
A NEW study undertaken by researchers from the University of Limerick and the University of Southampton has tested the theory that eccentricity increases people’s perceptions of artistic capacity and quality of art.

A NEW study undertaken by researchers from the University of Limerick and the University of Southampton has tested the theory that eccentricity increases people’s perceptions of artistic capacity and quality of art.

Study co-author, Dr Eric Igou of the department of psychology at UL, said they wanted to understand the role that society’s perception of artists plays in our evaluation of the merit of their work.

In one study, Van Gogh’s Sunflowers painting was evaluated more positively when he was said to have cut off his left ear lobe than when this information was not presented.

The study involved over 250 participants who took part in a series of five experiments to evaluate their perceptions of art with and without knowledge of the artist involved.

“In the case of unconventional or modern art, we have found that artists who display eccentricity are rated as being more genuine and skilled,” he said.

In one particular study group, 78 participants answered a questionnaire about the work of Lady Gaga. The questionnaire included a photograph depicting the artist as being highly eccentric and the other was deemed to be a more conventional image.

The results revealed that those who received the more eccentric image rated Lady Gaga’s artistic skills much higher than of those with the conventional depiction.

This is the first detailed study to establish a link between creator eccentricities to appreciation of creative works. These findings have implications for the psychology of trait inferences, creative processes and authenticity.

The paper ‘From Van Gogh to Lady Gaga: Artist eccentricity increases perceived artistic skill and art appreciation’ by Wijnand Adriaan Pieter van Tilburg and Eric Raymond Igou is available online.