What Are Aesthetic Emotions?

Winfried Menninghaus*, Valentin Wagner, Eugen Wassiliwizky, Ines Schindler, Julian Hanich, Thomas Jacobsen, Stefan Koelsch

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

    52 Citations (Scopus)

    Abstract

    This is the first comprehensive theoretical article on aesthetic emotions. Following Kant's definition, we propose that it is the first and foremost characteristic of aesthetic emotions to make a direct contribution to aesthetic evaluation/appreciation. Each aesthetic emotion is tuned to a special type of perceived aesthetic appeal and is predictive of the subjectively felt pleasure or displeasure and the liking or disliking associated with this type of appeal. Contrary to the negativity bias of classical emotion catalogues, emotion terms used for aesthetic evaluation purposes include far more positive than negative emotions. At the same time, many overall positive aesthetic emotions encompass negative or mixed emotional ingredients. Appraisals of intrinsic pleasantness, familiarity, and novelty are preeminently important for aesthetic emotions. Appraisals of goal relevance/conduciveness and coping potential are largely irrelevant from a pragmatic perspective, but in some cases highly relevant for cognitive and affective coping. Aesthetic emotions are typically sought and savored for their own sake, with subjectively felt intensity and/or emotional arousal being rewards in their own right. The expression component of aesthetic emotions includes laughter, tears, and facial and bodily movements, along with applause or booing and words of praise or blame. Aesthetic emotions entail motivational approach and avoidance tendencies, specifically, tendencies toward prolonged, repeated, or interrupted exposure and wanting to possess aesthetically pleasing objects. They are experienced across a broad range of experiential domains and not coextensive with art-elicited emotions.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)171-195
    Number of pages25
    JournalPsychological Review
    Volume126
    Issue number2
    DOIs
    Publication statusPublished - Mar-2019

    Keywords

    • aesthetic emotions
    • aesthetic evaluation/appreciation
    • liking
    • beauty
    • being moved
    • LITERARY FICTION
    • NEGATIVITY BIAS
    • AFFECTIVE NEUROSCIENCE
    • INDIVIDUAL-DIFFERENCES
    • MOOD MANAGEMENT
    • BASIC EMOTIONS
    • CORE AFFECT
    • MUSIC
    • PLEASURE
    • BRAIN

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