Kant defined aesthetic emotions ("ästhetische Gefühle") as intuitive appreciations of various kinds of aesthetic appeals throughout nature and culture. In the philosophy and psychology of the 19th, 20th and 21st centuries, the term "aesthetic emotion" has been redefined numerous times. Still, the construct remains highly disputed, and empirical research on aesthetic emotions is scarce. The focus of our Research Area B is threefold:
1. Defining the construct of "aesthetic emotions" and developing a scale for measuring them
In a series of studies we aim at refining the definition of the construct and developing a comprehensive scale to capture aesthetic emotions. We test this scale in field studies and investigate select aesthetic emotions in greater detail.
2. What does it mean to be "moved", "touched", or "shattered" by a speech or an artwork?
Until recently, scientific psychology has made very little effort to understand the emotional states of "being moved", "touched", and "shattered", despite their long tradition at the center of poetics and rhetoric. Our studies are devoted to establishing these emotion terms as psychological constructs, and to investigating their specific role in aesthetic experiences and evaluations. Case studies on films and poems analyze behavioral, physiological and neuronal correlates of these emotions.
3. The enjoyment of negative emotions in the arts
Compared to the vast philosophical debate – dating back to Aristotle’s theory of tragedy – on the enjoyment of negative emotions in the arts, empirical research on the issue is fairly limited in both quantity and range, with studies on horror films being the only exception to this rule. Our project line focuses on art-elicited states of sadness, disgust, and anger, and on the horror dimension of trash movies. The overarching goal of our work in this field is to develop – based on reviewing available empirical evidence both from our own case studies and the existing literature – a comprehensive theoretical account of the enjoyment associated with negative emotions in the arts.
Several studies have shown that emotional goosebumps are tightly related to episodes of being moved/touched. But what about other emotions?
The wise reader reads the book of genius not with his heart, not so much with his brain, but with his spine. — Vladimir Nabokov
In this study, we compare the physiological and neural correlates of music- and poetry-induced chills/goosebumps.
The research project focuses on neural and physiological correlates of being emotionally moved. In several studies, we look at the activity of several prominent physiological signals, such as facial muscle activity, skin conductance, heart activity and the BOLD signal, while participants listen to moving poems or watch their favorite film scenes. To identify this complex emotional state of feeling moved, we use two objectively measurable physiological markers: goose bumps and tears.
The projects is devoted to reviewing the philosophical and psychological research on "aesthetic emotions". Its objective is to cover the topic in a major theoretical review paper and to develop a multi-dimensional model of "aesthetic emotions".
In film criticism, the notion of the "feel-good film" mainly serves as an evaluative term which bears both positive and negative connotations depending on the supposed legitimacy of the films' affective and emotional effect.
A theoretical construct of "Aesthetic Emotions" is useful for empirical research only to the extent that methods for measuring actually felt aesthetic emotions are developed. The project undertakes this effort: it develops highly nuanced scales for self-report measures of aesthetic emotions, and validates these scales both by a variety of statistical means and by multiple field studies.
Schindler, I., Hosoya, G., Menninghaus, W., Beermann, U., Wagner, V., Eid, M., & Scherer, K. R. (2017). Measuring aesthetic emotions: A review of the literature and a new assessment tool. Plos One, 12(6), e0178899. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0178899 PDF
Wassiliwizky, E., Jacobsen, T., Heinrich, J., Schneiderbauer, M., & Menninghaus, W. (2017). Tears Falling on Goosebumps: Co-occurrence of Emotional Lacrimation and Emotional Piloerection Indicates a Psychophysiological Climax in Emotional Arousal. Frontiers in Psychology, 8(41). doi:10.3389/fpsyg.2017.00041
Menninghaus, W., Wagner, V., Wassiliwizky, E., Jacobsen, T., & Knoop, C. A. (2017). The emotional and aesthetic powers of parallelistic diction. Poetics, 63, 47-59. doi:10.1016/j.poetic.2016.12.001
Kraxenberger, M., & Menninghaus, W. (2017). Affinity for Poetry and Aesthetic Appreciation of Joyful and Sad Poems. Frontiers in Psychology, 7(2051). doi:10.3389/fpsyg.2016.02051
Kraxenberger, M., & Menninghaus, W. (2016). Emotional effects of poetic phonology, word positioning and dominant stress peaks in poetry reading. Scientific Study of Literature, 6(2), 298-313. doi:10.1075/ssol.6.2.06kra
Sarkhosh, K., & Menninghaus, W. (2016). Enjoying trash films: Underlying features, viewing stances, and experiential response dimensions. Poetics, 57, 40-54. doi:10.1016/j.poetic.2016.04.002
Wagner, V., Klein, J., Hanich, J., Shah, M., Menninghaus, W., & Jacobsen, T. (2016). Anger Framed: A Field Study on Emotion, Pleasure, and Art. Psychology of Aesthetics, Creativity, and the Arts, 10(2), 134-146. doi:10.1037/aca0000029
Wassiliwizky, E., Wagner, V., Jacobsen, T., & Menninghaus, W. (2015). Art-elicited chills indicate states of being moved. Psychology of Aesthetics, Creativity, and the Arts, 9(4), 405-416. doi:10.1037/aca0000023
Menninghaus, W., Wagner, V., Hanich, J., Wassiliwizky, E., Kuehnast, M., & Jacobsen, T. (2015). Towards a Psychological Construct of Being Moved. Plos One, 10(6), e0128451. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0128451
Kumschick, I. R., Beck, L., Eid, M., Witte, G., Klann-Delius, G., Heuser, I., Steinlein, R., & Menninghaus, W. (2014). READING and FEELING: The effects of a literature-based intervention designed to increase emotional competence in second and third graders. Frontiers in Psycholology, 5. doi:10.3389/fpsyg.2014.01448.
Kuijpers, M. M., Hakemulder, F., Doicaru, M., Tan, E. (2014) Exploring absorbing reading experiences: Developing and validating a self-report scale to measure story world absorption. Scientific Study of Literature, 4 (1), pp. 89-122.
Wagner, V., Menninghaus, W., Hanich, J., & Jacobsen, T. (2014). Art schema effects on affective experience: The case of disgusting images. Psychology of Aesthetics, Creativity, and the Arts, 8(2), 120–129. doi:10.1037/a0036126
Sarkhosh, K. & Ferstl, P. (2014). Introduction: Popular Culture in the Field of "Undercomplexity" and "Imbalanced Coding". In P. Ferstl & K. Sarkhosh (Eds.), Quote Double Quote. Aesthetics between High and Popular Culture (pp. 7-21). Amsterdam: Rodopi.
Sarkhosh, K. (2014). "Sick, sick, sick"? Pornography, Disgust, and the Limit Values of Aesthetics. In P. Ferstl & K. Sarkhosh (Eds.), Quote Double Quote. Aesthetics between High and Popular Culture (pp. 99-120). Amsterdam: Rodopi.
Kuehnast, M., Wagner, V., Wassiliwizky, E., Jacobsen, T., & Menninghaus, W. (2014). Being Moved: Linguistic Representation and Conceptual Structure. Frontiers in Psychology, 5. doi:10.3389/fpsyg.2014.01242 PDF