Making Art Sacred (09-12-22)

Chen, Ruttan, and Feinberg studied how art becomes sacred and their findings are likely applicable to other sorts of objects/situations.  The researchers report that they “used art as a case study to develop and test a theory wherein collective transcendence beliefs—beliefs that an object links the collective to something larger and more important than the self, spanning space and time—are a key determinant of the sacredness of objects. . . . heightening  [emphasizing] the collective spirituality and historical significance of an artwork resulted in participants viewing the artwork as more collectively meaningful, and subsequently more sacred . . . worthy of protection from the profane . . . and eliciting moral outrage in the face of desecration. . . . collective transcendence beliefs elevate various forms of art (sculpture, music, and painting) to be held as sacred.” During the research conducted, study participants came to find sacred “even an amateur sketch done by the first author.”  So, art seems sacred when people are lead to believe that it connects humanity to something greater than itself and sacred art is worthy of protection.

S. Chen, R. Ruttan, and M. Feinberg.  “Collective Transcendence Beliefs Shape the Sacredness of Objects:  The Case of Art.”  Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, in press,