Art has always been a subject of controversy. Yet, it has been an integral part of our social thread. From the stone age to now, it has played a fundamental role in human society.
Consider this – during the stone age, cave drawings served as a mode of communication. A little later, it became a way of expressing feelings, such as love and anger.
And, now, it is more of a profession than being a practice to relieve internal feelings.
Studies reveal that our choices in the art can give insights into our personality and intelligence.
The Early Philosophers
Studies in art preferences date back to only a century ago. However, philosophers and ideologists have long been recording such data.
For example, the artwork that a person is attracted to gives insights into whether the person is impulsive or deliberate. Likewise, temperament can also be assessed by knowing if the person likes Landscape paintings or fine arts. In short, there are various predictors of a person’s personality traits.
That being said, early studies explain that the choices are not what defines our personality, but it is the other way around. In other words, it is the personality that determines the selection of the artwork.
Yes, it seems contrary to the current studies. But, it also gives a detailed outline for modern studies (we’ll come to these a little later in this article).
For now, it should suffice to say that a person’s interest in art is regardless of social class, age, or gender.
Understanding The Traits
Today, five personality traits have been widely accepted by researchers. These traits are commonly known as the Big Five.
The Big Five model asserts that every personality is a combination of five fundamental traits. These are namely openness, conscientiousness, extroversion, agreeableness, and neuroticism.
Instead of putting personalities into binary categories, the model suggests a spectrum. To put this into perspective, let’s take an example.
Typically, we refer to a person as an introvert or extrovert. These two personality traits are indeed two extremes within a spectrum of traits.
The Big Five personality theory suggests that every personality lies somewhere between these two extremes. In other words, the person needs not be either introverted or extroverted. But, instead, the scenarios define what trait they’ll display.
In general, the five traits are governed by a host of facets.
For example, people who exhibit openness are likely to be curious, independent, and imaginative. On the contrary, conscientious people are generally organized, thoughtful, and goal-oriented.
As a result, people exhibiting openness are more likely to be attracted by art. Whereas people who demonstrate conscientiousness are less likely.
Did you know:- art preferences are also used to predict human behavior—for example, health consciousness, marital satisfaction, and job preferences.
The Art Style In Preference
Personality traits not only help predict affinity for art but also preferences within.
A 1973 study revealed that different personalities regarded the complexities in art as the primary distinction. For example, a person exhibiting openness was likely to be partial to complex paintings. On the contrary, conservative personalities preferred straightforward and traditional pieces.
Another 2008 study, published in the British Journal of Psychology, surveyed over 90,000 people. The results were as follows:
- Agreeable and conscientious personalities are less open to new experiences. They prefer representational art like impressionism.
- Open personalities are more attracted to abstract art.
- People who have neurotic tendencies such as anxiety, shyness, or moodiness find abstract and pop art more attractive.
Psychologists believe these preferences could be due to the way people visually scan art. Though visual scanning might not be a strong indicator, it might still partially affect the choices.
That being said, a 2018 study tried to track participants’ eye movements when they were given an abstract artwork to study. The observations were as follows:
- Majority of participants focussed on the upper-right quadrant. Since the brain’s right hemisphere is responsible for visuospatial processing and is also responsible for processing emotions, most people were found to be open and conscientious.
- People who tended to neuroticism focused on the left side of the picture.
- People who have schizophrenia focused on the bottom of the picture.
Although there has been an impressive amount of research on art preferences and personalities, the theories still seem incomplete. Consider this – our culture, demographics, and life experiences can also affect our choice of art. Besides, most studies only considered 2-D art such as paintings to review personality traits. But what about other forms of art?
Art In Daily Life
Meaningful insights might be gained by looking into someone’s personal art collection.
Now, not every commoner collects art, but most usually hand them around in their homes.
Yes, we are referring to wall art.
For example, if a person has maps on their wall, they are more likely to be adventure seekers. Translation – they are expected to be inclined towards traveling.
Likewise, suppose a person has antique art pieces displayed in their home. In that case, they could be inclined towards intricate details and finesse.
People who prefer having many movie and sci-fi posters on their walls are believed to be outspoken when induced. In other words, they may seem shy at first, but if given the opportunity, they may come out to be social butterflies.
Several studies reveal these intricate patterns in personality and art choices for home decor. And since most people usually come across art as a part of their lifestyle, routine encounters seem more promising as an indicator of their true personality.
Also Read: DIY Wall Art Ideas
With so many studies claiming to record personality insights from art choices, the data still lacks supporting arguments. Perhaps, the art choices are nearly as ambiguous as art itself. But still, they may give an idea about the possibilities at hand.
It might not suffice to say that we understand art or the artist entirely. We always need context to learn what an artist is trying to say. However, it is for sure that art adds more color and meaning to the life of both- the artist and the appreciator.