Serena Castellotti, Ottavia D’Agostino, Angelica Mencarini, Martina Fabozzi, Raimondo Varano, Stefano Mastandrea, Irene Baldriga, & Maria Michela Del Viva

Psychophysiological and behavioral responses to descriptive labels in modern art museums

PLoS One 18, e0284149

https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0284149 Download

Educational tools in art exhibitions seem crucial to improve the cultural and aesthetic experi- ence, particularly of non-expert visitors, thus becoming a strategic goal for museums. How- ever, there has not been much research regarding the impact of labels on the quality of visitors’ aesthetic experience. Therefore, here we compared the impact on the cognitive and emotional experience of naïve visitors between essential and descriptive labels, through multiple objective and subjective measurements, focusing on the controversial modern art museum context. We found that, after detailed descriptions, observers spend more time inspecting artworks, their eyes wander more looking for the described elements, their skin conductance and pupil size increase, and overall, they find the content less complex and more arousing. Our findings show that people do receive important benefits from reading detailed information about artworks. This suggests that elaborating effective labels should be a primary goal for museums interested in attracting a non-expert public.