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New study found significant improvements in mood and anxiety after just a few minutes of viewing art online

It is well known that art can positively affect our mood, but it is interesting to investigate whether it can have a similar effect when viewed through a screen. A new study explored this to understand that viewing art online can be a source of pleasure and meaning-making that can improve our well-being.

An international research team including the University of Vienna, the Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics in Nijmegen and the Max Planck Institute for Empirical Aesthetics (MPIEA) in Frankfurt investigated how online art affects people’s states of mind.

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The study involved 240 study participants who viewed the Monet Water Lily interactive art exhibit from Google Arts and Culture. According to an MPIEA press release, they later filled out a questionnaire in which they provided information about their mental state, how much joy they felt looking at the images, and how meaningful the experience was. The results showed significant improvements in mood and anxiety after just a few minutes of viewing art.

“Online art viewing is an untapped source of well-being support that can be consumed as little bits of meaning-making and pleasure,” MacKenzie Trupp, first author from the University of Vienna, said in a statement.

In addition, the study showed that some participants were more receptive to art and could receive more benefits. This benefit can be predicted using a metric called “aesthetic response.” Aesthetic response describes how people respond to various aesthetic stimuli such as art and nature.

The results showed that individuals with high levels of art and aesthetic responsiveness benefit more from viewing art online through more enjoyable and meaningful art experiences,” explained Edward A. Vessel of the MPIEA, developer of the Aesthetic Responsiveness Assessment, in a statement.

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The findings suggest that interactive art exhibitions and online experiences can affect mood and overall well-being. It’s also important to note that these virtual experiences should be designed with this awareness of individual differences in aesthetic sensibilities, according to the statement. The study highlights the benefits and limitations of art in digital media and the growing potential for improving wellness through online art.

These findings also replicate previous results on this topic. A 2022 study by the University of Vienna showed that even a brief viewing of online art can significantly reduce negative mood, anxiety and loneliness, as well as improve subjective well-being. In addition, the researchers showed that the results were comparable to other interventions, such as nature experiences and visits to physical art galleries.

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