It’s no surprise that perceived context is important in influencing people’s decisions. A recent experiment has shown that people rate pictures as more aesthetically pleasing (and actually experience more pleasure while viewing them) if they believe they come from art galleries.
Aesthetic judgments, like most judgments, depend on context. Whether an object or image is seen in daily life or in an art gallery can significantly modulate the aesthetic value humans attach to it. We investigated the neural system supporting this modulation by presenting human subjects with artworks under different contexts whilst acquiring fMRI data. Using the same database of artworks, we randomly labelled images as being either sourced from a gallery or computer generated. Subjects’ aesthetic ratings were significantly higher for stimuli viewed in the ‘gallery’ than ‘computer’ contexts.