The Color Line: the Influence of Race on Aesthetic Experience and its Inferred Connection to Implicit Racial Bias

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University of Alabama Libraries

Implicit bias literature widely reports that biases shape perception in a number of real-world situations. However, a review of literature found no existing implicit bias studies that focus on the activation of biases during the process of art assessment. The current study fills this empirical gap. Methods: Eighty-nine students (Black — 33; White — 56) participated in a study on art interpretation where they judged fifteen paintings in four categories— Mainstream, Blackstream, Activist and Political— and reported on three dimensions related to their assessment, like, comfort and valence. Results: An analysis of the data determined that the Blackstream category yielded significant results on the dimension of comfort with White people being less comfortable with images in the Blackstream category than Blacks. No other significant results were found on the dimensions of comfort or like in the other art categories, indicating that there were no significant differences in participant responses to the artworks in these categories. A word analysis on the written interpretations of the paintings was conducted on the dimensions of positive, neutral and negative language usage, which indicated that Whites responded less positively than Blacks to art in the Blackstream category. Discussion and implications: These findings indicate that race plays a role in the interpretation of paintings, specifically those in the Black art category. A future study will examine how age, executive functioning, openness to experience, explicit and implicit racism play a role in mediating the responses of Black and White participants to artworks. Keywords: perception, aesthetic experience, race, art

Electronic Thesis or Dissertation
Aesthetic Experience, Art, Cognition, Implicit Bias, Perception, Race