Museum of Science, Boston

Conceptualizing Music and Art

Like adults, children enjoy observing and creating artwork. Some cognitive scientists are interested in studying children’s perceptions of art and music.

Current Research

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What role does music play in children’s friendship preferences?

This research explores the role of musical preferences in guiding children’s social preferences: Do children take into account others’ musical preferences when making new friendships?

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Can children distinguish paintings by professional artists from paintings by non-artists?

Previous research has found that adults with no expertise in visual arts prefer paintings made by abstract expressionist masters over paintings by children or nonhumans, and judge them as “better” works of art. Do children also recognize and prefer artwork made by professional abstract artists? If children are told that an artist made the image, does that affect their preferences?

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What do children believe counts as art?

Past research suggests that people appreciate an image less if there is no apparent creative intent behind it (for example, if they learn that it was made by accident). Do children make the same types of judgments?

Research has also shown that children tend to focus more on the subject matter depicted in an image, rather than how it was made, when judging a picture as good or bad. If this is true, then what do children believe counts as art?