This research was conducted by Inez Michiels (CITY OF 8) in collaboration with the University of Antwerp and the Academy of Fine Art Antwerp. 173 inhabitants of Belgium were surveyed. The focus of this study is on emotions evoked by the colours and shapes present in art objects. Previous studies dealt mainly with correlation research into the cognitive-affective response to specific parameters of colour and shape. With the bio-informational theory and its dimensional approach as a starting point, the present research explores the possibility of an implicit motivation structure of an aesthetic experience, similar to that of other environmental stimuli.


We compared 33 simple variables of colour, colour combination, shape and composition with reports of affective experience obtained using the Self-Assessment-Manikin (SAM), measuring the pleasure, arousal and dominance of a person’s affective reaction, complemented with 14 semantic differentials.

Ninety abstract art reproductions were selected and presented in sets of 30 to 200 Belgium citizens with varying backgrounds. If results reveal that emotional reactions towards art objects adhere to a general system, this will advance our understanding on how art communicates emotions. This will also have implications for (the study of) the creative aspect of art objects as well as for their analysis and education. Moreover, results will be relevant for other forms of visual communication, such as: advertising, graphic design, industrial design, architecture.

The research is in progress.