Psychology of Art:  Is Liberalism-Conservatism Related to Art Preferences?

       There are differences in how people evaluate art.  Some people may like abstract
and complex art, and others may not.  These differences may partly reflect differences
in attitudes and personality.   Would people who are generally liberal like different types
of art than people who are generally conservative?
     Wilson, Ausman, and Mathews (1973) had participants indicate the extent to which
they liked 20 paintings.  The painting reflected four categories:  complex abstract,
simple abstract, complex representational, and simple representational.  On the average,
participants who were categorized as liberal indicated that they liked the complex
abstract and complex representational paintings more than people categorized as
conservative.  On the other hand, the participants categorized as conservative indicated,
on the average, that they liked the simple representational paintings more than the
participants categorized as liberal.  The difference between the liberal and conservative
groups for the simple abstract paintings was not statistically significant.
   These findings suggest that people who are less conservative tend to like complex
paintings more than people who are more conservative.   The findings may have some
important implications.   If you are giving a painting as a gift, you may wish to consider
the degree to which the person is liberal or conservative because it may be related to
the type of painting the person may like.
   Because the findings are correlational, we cannot make causal conclusions from the
findings.  Other explanations cannot be ruled out.  There may be other variables related
to liberalism-conservatism that could explain the findings.


Wilson, G. D., Ausman, J., & Mathews, T. R.  (1973).  Conservatism and art   
  preferences.  Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 25, 286-288.