People tend to think that other people’s divergent tastes in the art realm are not just “different”, but objectively wrong with respect to their ownaccording to a new study led by Nathan Cheek of Princeton University.

That is to say, that artistic sensitivity would be like a political or religious opinion and that our objectivity is far from being objective even in a context where there are few objective truths such as art.

From politics to art

What is art and what is not? Why are there works that succeed and others not? Does the exercise of criticism as we know it today make sense? They are questions without a clear answer. However, we tend to think that our judgments about art are better or more objective and that the judgments of others, if they are different, respond to biases or prejudices.

Evidence for these trends initially emerged in the domain of politics, where people tend to assume that objectively correct beliefs and positions exist. This research shows that people trust the accuracy of their views and judge those who disagree negatively, even in the apparently ‘subjective’ domain of art.

Across seven experiments, participants rated paintings and found others to agree or disagree with their ratings.

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Participants interpreted other people’s evaluations as less objective when they contradicted their own. These aesthetic preferences felt as objective as political preferences. And reminding study participants that their belief that artistic preferences are ‘matters of opinion’ reduced this trend, but did not eliminate it.

These findings suggest that people’s convictions about their own objectivity are so powerful that they extend into domains that are normally considered ‘subjective’, such as whether Tenet is a smart movie or intellectual onanism.

If you think too much ... art makes no sense

Another 2004 study confirmed how easy it is for all of us to think that others are the most easily contaminated by biases and prejudices, as we give greater credibility to our own insights about possible influences on judgment and behavior.

Sharing People tend to consider their artistic tastes superior to those of others