The Power of Ambivalent Art (01-20-22)

Muth and Carbon studied ambivalent art (specifically photographs) and our responses to it.  First, a definition, “Ambivalence describes a conflict between contrasting valences, for example, when an image appears bitter but sweet.” The researchers conducted “two studies with artistic photographs examining the relationship between ambivalence and interest. The first study utilized explicit evaluations and revealed a positive relationship between estimated ambivalence and interest [more ambivalence, more interest]. . . . The second study utilized a forced-choice paradigm that was captured by a high-speed eyetracker. . . . When we asked participants which of two images they wanted to learn more about, they chose ambivalent photos more often and looked slightly longer at them.”

Claudia Muth and Claus-Christian Carbon.  “Ambivalence of Artistic Photographs Stimulates Interest and the Motivation to Engage.”  Psychology of Aesthetics, Creativity, and the Arts, in press,