25. May 2021

New Paper: Inspired by Art

Image: Inspired by Art

Illustration: MPI for Empirical Aesthetics

The Power of Art

Aesthetically Appealing Art Increases Creative Inspiration

Where do you find inspiration? New research suggests that a good place to look is in an art museum. Scientists at the Max Planck Institute for Empirical Aesthetics in Frankfurt, Germany, have found that appealing visual art can increase moments of inspiration.

In a new article published in the journal Psychology of Aesthetics, Creativity, and the Arts, the authors report several experiments in which participants were asked to write short creative stories in response to different prompts. People reported feeling more inspired when writing in response to an artwork that they found aesthetically appealing compared to one they did not find appealing, or to prompts of random words. They also wrote more.

Dominik Welke, the study’s lead author, thinks these results can tell us something about the psychology underlying creative thought. “We think that the mental state of ‘being moved’ by a painting can prime the state of ‘being inspired’ to create—possibly because these two states show some similarities, such as feelings of motivation and transcendence.”

The project’s senior author, Edward Vessel, suggests that their results show the promise of arts-based interactions in educational and professional settings. “Increasing interactions with art and letting students choose to work with materials that they find aesthetically appealing might boost how often they have inspiring ideas.”

Moments of inspiration are an important part of the creative process, acting as bridges from generating ideas to acting on them. This research points a way to better understand such moments and to improve our own creativity.


Original Citation:

Welke, D.W., Purton, I., Vessel, E.A. (2021). Inspired by art: Higher aesthetic appeal elicits increased felt inspiration in a creative writing task. Psychology of Aesthetics, Creativity, and the Arts. Advance online publication. doi:10.1037/aca0000393