22. June 2017

New Instrument for Measuring Aesthetic Emotions Published

When works of art, texts or music delight, annoy or bore us, psychologists refer to this as an aesthetic emotion. But what does this concept involve? In general terms, it refers to the arousal of feelings that occurs when we judge stimuli according to their aesthetic qualities. Until now, this issue has hardly been investigated across the entire spectrum of aesthetic judgments, from the arts to design, all the way to the beauty of nature –  because there has not been any appropriate instrument for doing so.

Researchers at the Max Planck Institute for Empirical Aesthetics in Frankfurt, the Freie Universität Berlin, the University of Geneva and the University of Innsbruck have now introduced an appropriate assessment tool in the form of the Aesthetic Emotions Scale (Aesthemos) in the PLOS ONE science journal.

Aesthetic feelings are not restricted to pleasure and delight, but can be experienced as mixed, bittersweet or negative. It is not uncommon for negative components of feelings to contribute to an experience that is regarded as generally pleasant. To collect systematic data on individual feelings it is thus necessary for research participants to have access to an adequate range of emotions. Aesthemos therefore has 21 highly differentiated subscale items, including feelings of beauty, fascination, joy, vitality, being moved, nostalgia, confusion, anger, and boredom.

The scale makes it possible to measure not only the kind and intensity of the feelings triggered by an aesthetic object. It also makes it possible to compare the feelings which are most prominent in connection with different areas of fine art, fashion, or perceptions of nature. It is also possible to use it to investigate which feelings contribute to positive or negative judgments.

Aesthemos provides empirical research with an innovative instrument – and offers an opportunity of taking a decisive step forward on the path to a universal conceptualization of aesthetic feelings. The study was supported by, among others, an Advanced Grant of the European Research Council

Original Publikation (open access):

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. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0178899


The Max Planck Institute for Empirical Aesthetics, Frankfurt/Main, Germany

The Max Planck Institute for Empirical Aesthetics has been founded in 2013 in Frankfurt/Main, Germany. It currently employs more than 130 staff members. In a joint effort of researchers from the humanities and the sciences, the Max Planck Institute for Empirical Aesthetics explores who aesthetically appreciates what, for which reasons and under which situational and historical circumstances, and analyzes the functions of aesthetic practices and preferences for individuals and societies.

The Max Planck Institute for Empirical Aesthetics is one of 83 research institutes of the Max-Planck-Gesellschaft zur Förderung der Wissenschaften e.V., one of Europe’s leading research organizations. For more information go to https://www.mpg.de/en


Dr. habil. Ines Schindler

Language & Literature
Max Planck Institute for Empirical Aesthetics

+49 69 8300479-116



Andrea Treber
Press & PR
Max Planck Institute for Empirical Aesthetics

+49 69 8300479-652