Tag Archives: construal level theory

Is survey a form of arts?

There are different forms of arts like painting, sculpture, architecture, and photography. However, survey could be a form of arts. I learned this from the exhibition of Korea Artist Prize 2019 at the MMCA (National Museum of Modern Contemporary Art, Korea).

Korea Artist Prize is a prestigious art award and exhibition of Korea. This award follows the path of MMCA’s Artist of the year exhibitions, which was held from 1995 to 2010 and hence it has been reestablished to discover and sponsor artists who have ardently persisted in paving their own way to artistic success, thus providing an avenue for the advancement of Korean contemporary art.

One of the four selected artists in 2019 is Hyesoo Park. Her artwork is to visualize our unconscious perception. She often observes surroundings, gathers data by doing meticulous research, and collaborates with experts in related fields. In other words, she conducts social science research as an artist.

Park’s new work made for this exhibition starts from the question, “who is your ‘we’?” This question invites one to examine individuals’ questions and categorizations of ‘we,’ namely, their understandings of groups. Prior to the production of the work, the artist conducted a survey on one’s perceptions of ‘we’ among a representative sample, and the output of the survey is analyzed by an expert and interpreted by the artist to be reflected in this work.

One piece of artworks surprised me. This artwork is a survey report. She hung survey responses and framed statistical findings.

According to academic research, we are more likely to include unconventional artworks into the category of arts when we think abstractly. This suggests when we think concretely, we are less likely to consider survey a form of arts.

Schimmel, K., & Förster, J. (2008). How Temporal Distance Changes Novices’ Attitudes Towards Unconventional Arts. Psychology of Aesthetics, Creativity, and the Arts, 2(1), 53–60.

The authors suggest that, just like other attitudes, attitudes toward art may be malleable, and may thus also depend on situational factors. In particular, the authors propose that thinking styles vary within the situation and that an abstract versus concrete thinking style has an influence on attitudes toward conventional (e.g., Mona Lisa by da Vinci) versus unconventional (e.g., Fat Corner by Beuys) artworks. Construal Level Theory predicts that when people think about the distant future they automatically start thinking in a more abstract way, relative to when people think about the near future, which is supposed to elicit a concrete thinking style. In an experiment, the authors asked participants to think about their lives a year from now or tomorrow. Afterward, in an allegedly unrelated task, participants were asked to evaluate conventional and unconventional artworks. Results showed that participants that had thought about distant events and presumably thought more abstractly were more likely to include unconventional artworks into the category of arts than participants that had thought about near events, and thus presumably thought in more concrete terms. Implications for applied settings are discussed.

Street signs for kids

I have never met any street sign which encourages someone to DO something. Instead, most street signs ask someone NOT to do something. For instance, they ask pedestrians not to run fast or they ask drivers not to drive fast.

However, at a school in Hong Kong, I finally met a different street sign designed for students. Several yellow people were painted on a street surrounding a tree. Interestingly, they ran by carrying different items including basketball, football, soda, and noodle (?!).

According to a group of psychologists, we behave differently when we are in the promotion-focused mode than when we are in the prevention-focused mode. I hope we see more promotion-focused street signs painted on the road (e.g., please fly drone here, please use mobile phone here, etc.).

Trope, Y., & Liberman, N. (2010). Construal-Level Theory of Psychological Distance. Psychological Review, 117(2), 440–463.

People are capable of thinking about the future, the past, remote locations, another person’s perspective, and counterfactual alternatives. Without denying the uniqueness of each process, it is proposed that they constitute different forms of traversing psychological distance. Psychological distance is egocentric: Its reference point is the self in the here and now, and the different ways in which an object might be removed from that point—in time, in space, in social distance, and in hypotheticality—constitute different distance dimensions. Transcending the self in the here and now entails mental construal, and the farther removed an object is from direct experience, the higher (more abstract) the level of construal of that object. Supporting this analysis, research shows (a) that the various distances are cognitively related to each other, (b) that they similarly influence and are influenced by level of mental construal, and (c) that they similarly affect prediction, preference, and action.