The Role of Emotions in Sense-Making with Art: an Interdisciplinary Study

Activity: Talk and presentationAcademic presentationAcademic


Art remains a ubiquitous part of our lives and the way it is perceived and understood is significantly intertwined with emotions (Chatterjee & Vartanian, 2014). This study used a mixed and multi-method approach to examine the role of emotions in the sense-making process with art from an interdisciplinary perspective. Thirty-six participants took part in the study in pairs (18 dyads) and were instructed to each bring an artwork that was meaningful to them. During the experiment, participants engaged in an audio-visually recorded semi-structured conversation reflecting on both artworks and answered pre- and post-questionnaires on their emotions. Sense-making was coded in terms of four semiotic strategies namely perception, imagination, conceptualisation and analysis (van Heusden, 2015). Emotions were assessed based on their intensity and expression. Results showed that the strategy of conceptualisation evoked the most emotional expressions and emotional intensity, followed by imagination, perception, and then, analysis. Notably, emotions were involved in all semiotic strategies. These findings resonate with the 4E cognition paradigm (cf. Burnett & Gallagher, 2020). Social relationships, memories, sensory appeals, and perceived purpose emerged as influential factors in the participants' sense-making process. Furthermore, this study subtly hints at a potential 5E approach, portraying emotions as interwoven and integral to sense-making, and more specifically, in all semiotic strategies.
Event title10 years Cognitive Futures in The Arts and Humanities: From 4E to 5E Cognition: about Emotions
Event typeConference
LocationCatania, ItalyShow on map
Degree of RecognitionInternational


  • Art
  • Sense-making
  • Emotions
  • Mixed-methods