A provocative new study shows that the sexes exhibit distinct differences in how they evaluate art: men tend to place more emphasis on the artist, women on the art itself.
For the study, 518 men and women were asked to judge two unfamiliar paintings and to read a fictitious biography of the artist who painted them. Some of the study participants read a biography that characterized the artist as "authentic" or experienced, while other participants read one that characterized the artist as "ordinary" or a beginner. The men and women didn't know the biographies were fictitious.
The men and women then were asked whether they liked the artist and the artwork and whether they were interested in purchasing the artwork.
What did the researchers find?
When the artist was described as authentic, the men and women overall had a more favorable impression of both the artist and the artwork -- no surprise there. But the men tended to base their decision on whether to buy the painting on details presented in the biography rather than on the painting's artistic merits.
"Women are more willing to go through a complicated process of actually evaluating the artwork," study co-author Dr. Stephanie Mangus, assistant professor at Michigan State University's Broad College of Business, said in a written statement, "whereas men may say, 'This guy's a great artist, so I'll buy his art.'"
Could there be some neurological basis to the different ways men and women look at art?
"I am not aware of any hardwired brain sex difference that would explain this," neuroscientist Dr. Lise Eliot, an associate professor at the Chicago Medical School at Rosalind Franklin University, who was not involved in the study, told The Huffington Post in an email. "More likely, it has to do with a sex difference in artistic experience. We've seen a long-term trend of art becoming a 'girl thing,' so that for decades, more girls than boys have been taking art classes and will have a greater understanding of technique, effort, and innovation... There may also be differences in one's motivation to buy art. Perhaps men are buying more for investment and women, for aesthetic pleasure."
The study was published in the August edition of the journal Psychology & Marketing.