Expecting the Unexpected: How Gallery Visitors Experience Semantic Instability in Art

In: Art & Perception
View More View Less
  • 1 Department of General Psychology and Methodology, University of Bamberg, Bamberg, Germany
  • | 2 Forschungsgruppe EPÆG (Ergonomics, Psychological Æsthetics, Gestalt), Bamberg, Germany
  • | 3 Bamberg Graduate School of Affective and Cognitive Sciences (BaGrACS), Bamberg, Germany
Download Citation Get Permissions

Access options

Get access to the full article by using one of the access options below.

Institutional Login

Log in with Open Athens, Shibboleth, or your institutional credentials

Login via Institution


Buy instant access (PDF download and unlimited online access):


The perception of artworks rarely—if ever—results in the instantiation of a determinate meaning. Instead, when entering an art gallery, we often expect Semantic Instability (SeIns): the experience of perceptual and cognitive habits being challenged. By comparing the experience of an artistic movie in an exhibition with the experience in a laboratory via the Continuous Evaluation Procedure, we found that the movie was less semantically unstable and more pleasing to the eyes of gallery visitors than to those of participants in the laboratory. These findings suggest that a gallery context might induce the expectation of perceptual challenge, thus decreasing the intensity of SeIns and at the same time heightening the appreciation of SeIns. Exhibition visitors might even be on the lookout for challenging experiences.

Content Metrics

All Time Past Year Past 30 Days
Abstract Views 736 167 19
Full Text Views 250 9 2
PDF Views & Downloads 68 16 1