Tom Jacobs writes at Pacific Standard:
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A person’s taste in art is generally thought to be unchanging. A lover of Renaissance frescoes, for instance, isn’t likely to suddenly become entranced by the abstract paintings of Jackson Pollock.
But recently published research suggests one specific, uncomfortable circumstance can inspire us to appreciate a wider range of work. It finds people are more likely to forge a positive emotional connection with surrealistic art if they have just been reminded of their own mortality.
It has long been argued that, in the face of existential threats, art can evoke a comforting aura of collective meaning and transcendence. That’s a fairly obvious dynamic with sacred works, but it can also be true of secular images that serve as poignant reminders of the beliefs that give one’s life meaning.
Somewhat counter-intuitively, a research team led by psychologist Verena Graupmann of DePaul University reports surrealistic art can serve this same purpose.