Common Terms in the Study of Art by Psychologists

Written by Kate Siner Francis Ph.D.

The central concern of this post is with art and related phenomena. The topic often becomes illusive because it all at once common and extraordinary, simple and illusively complex. This was best stated by Henry Murray who said that after years of inquiry into the nature of creativity that he had come up with nothing that defies common sense (Murray, 1981). It is virtually impossible to discuss one area without crossing into others. For example, a study of an artist requires discussing creativity but creativity does not require the discussion of an artist. However, a discussion of creativity might require a discussion of other arts related phenomena. Distinctions are made where they don’t necessarily belong. For example, Everyday Creativity and the Expressive Arts share common belief such as the creative nature that exists inside everyone but otherwise there is very little dialogue between the two fields because of their very different approaches to research. In order to aid with the discussion at this point in time, it is useful to create preliminary definitions so it is possible to more consciously address the field.

Art-making denotes the process of making art both by an artist or non-artist. Studies about art-making are concerned with why people make art and how the process benefits the creator or others.
Studies of aesthetics, from a psychological perspective, are concerned with why an object of art is pleasing to an observer, how artworks or environments influence the mental state of the observer, and how the brain responds to the viewing of a work of art.
Art criticism
Art criticism is the use of psychological theories to explain works of art.
Creativity studies focus on behaviors or tendencies that lead to the formulation of something previously unmade. This innovative tendency is studied in many different types of people. Studies in creativity often attempt to find out what makes people creative, how creativity can be fostered, and if creativity can be psychologically defined.
Everyday creativity
Everyday creativity is an off-shoot of creativity. Studies of everyday creativity are specifically focused on the experience of creativity in otherwise categorized non-creative people.

Art and diagnosis
The belief that art hold keys to a persons mental, emotional, and physical state that a trained third party can discern this information through viewing and use it to treat patients.
An artist is someone who creates in any medium and pursues that creation in a thoughtful and focused manner.
Eminent Artist
A person is someone who has received distinction because his or her work is highly esteemed by others.
Art-based methods of research
This phrase refers to the use of artistic processes or artistic ways of knowing in order to more completely understand the human experience from a psychological perspective.

Art-related studies and art-related phenomenon

These phrases are used to refer to the general category of the study of arts in psychology.
The term humanities describe not only the arts but also other non-scientific approaches to creating meaning such as philosophy.

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