Less Is More

Andrew Sullivan —  Jun 15 2014 @ 11:38am

A study indicates that we rate art more highly when we think fewer people were behind the work:

Starry Night by Vincent Van Gogh is a monumentally famous painting. It is beloved by starrypeople around the world. If tomorrow, it was revealed that Van Gogh had actually worked with two other madly talented painters to create the masterpiece, would we think it any less beautiful?

The answer, according to findings in newly published research by Rosanna K. Smith and George E. Newman, is yes. In their study, Drs. Smith and Newman seek to understand whether viewers value single creator art better than art created through a collaborative process. Our perception of art, they found,  is largely dictated by the amount of time and effort we think went into it. This notion was first put forth by Denis Dutton in his book The Art Instinct: Beauty, Pleasure, and Human Evolution, where he argued that we evaluate art not just by the final product, but also by the process that created it. We then use our evaluation of the process and final product to determine the quality of the piece we are admiring.

(Image: Starry Night by van Gogh, 1889, via Wikimedia Commons)