The Impact of Accompanying Text on Visual Processing and Hedonic Evaluation of Art

Fen Lin, Mike Yao

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This study explores how accompanying text affects the way an individual views and interprets a painting. We randomly assigned participants to view 20 paintings from the classical era with factual information, contextualized background information, or no information displayed next to them. We then recorded their visual gaze using an eye-tracking device and asked them to evaluate the paintings. The results show that how people view a painting and how they evaluate a painting are two distinct cognitive processes. The contextual information serves to orient the viewing process. The accompanying text influences the visual attention and gaze pattern but has limited impact on the hedonic evaluation of paintings. Instead, hedonic evaluation is more of a taste acquired through education and socialization. This study offers an empirical footnote to discussions on the cognitive assumptions in sociological studies of art and cultural phenomena.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)180-198
Number of pages19
JournalEmpirical Studies of the Arts
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jul 1 2018


  • art appreciation
  • eye movement
  • hedonic evaluation
  • information
  • sociology of art
  • visual processing

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Visual Arts and Performing Arts
  • Music
  • Literature and Literary Theory


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