By Monica Zilioli
From the Author: When I was a kid, I wondered why some art museum goers took forever to read title and description plaques. I got more out of looking at art than reading about it, so I felt like I was missing something crucial when I gave plaques my perfunctory glances. While I now realize that "forever" is longer than two minutes, my education in psychology has also helped me recognize that plaques are actually an interesting psychological dilemma. By reading, one can often gain insight into the artist's vision, the historical context, focal points, the medium, etc. Yet, in doing so, one is less challenged to look closely and create one's own meaningful interpretation. Perhaps this is why more abstract art has always appealed to me: there are usually no easy answers, even after thoroughly digesting the plaque. Due to this dilemma, I chose to design an experiment for a project in Susan Garrett's linguistics class to see what would happen if presenting the same abstract painting under different titles would change how people perceived it. I found this to be an ideal way to show how linguistics, art, and psychology are inherently connected, with the two former affecting the latter. Future research could add details that are commonly on painting plaques (i.e., the artist was a genocide survivor), possibly further influencing the viewing experience.
From the Faculty Nominator: In this paper, Monica asks not how many words a picture is worth, but how much words, specifically those in a title, are worth to a viewer interpreting a picture. It’s a fascinating question, and Monica performed and wrote up a thought-provoking pilot study that attempts to begin to explore the role of titles in modern art.
Read: This Paper Has Not Yet Been Named
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