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Concept: Abstract art


The role of the motor system in the perception of visual art remains to be better understood. Earlier studies on the visual perception of abstract art (from Gestalt theory, as in Arnheim, 1954 and 1988, to balance preference studies as in Locher and Stappers, 2002, and more recent work by Locher et al., 2007; Redies, 2007, and Taylor et al., 2011), neglected the question, while the field of neuroesthetics (Ramachandran and Hirstein, 1999; Zeki, 1999) mostly concentrated on figurative works. Much recent work has demonstrated the multimodality of vision, encompassing the activation of motor, somatosensory, and viscero-motor brain regions. The present study investigated whether the observation of high-resolution digitized static images of abstract paintings by Lucio Fontana is associated with specific cortical motor activation in the beholder’s brain. Mu rhythm suppression was evoked by the observation of original art works but not by control stimuli (as in the case of graphically modified versions of these works). Most interestingly, previous visual exposure to the stimuli did not affect the mu rhythm suppression induced by their observation. The present results clearly show the involvement of the cortical motor system in the viewing of static abstract art works.

Concepts: Brain, Visual perception, Perception, History of painting, Abstract art, Modernism, Figurative art, Western painting


Women appear to copy other women’s preferences for men’s faces. This ‘mate-choice copying’ is often taken as evidence of psychological adaptations for processing social information related to mate choice, for which facial information is assumed to be particularly salient. No experiment, however, has directly investigated whether women preferentially copy each other’s face preferences more than other preferences. Further, because prior experimental studies used artificial social information, the effect of real social information on attractiveness preferences is unknown. We collected attractiveness ratings of pictures of men’s faces, men’s hands, and abstract art given by heterosexual women, before and after they saw genuine social information gathered in real time from their peers. Ratings of faces were influenced by social information, but no more or less than were images of hands and abstract art. Our results suggest that evidence for domain-specific social learning mechanisms in humans is weaker than previously suggested.

Concepts: Psychology, Human, Gender role, Metaphysics, Abstraction, Suggestion, Charles Darwin, Abstract art


The development of the Azilian in Western Europe 14,000 years ago is considered a “revolution” in Upper Paleolithic Archaeology. One of the main elements of this rapid social restructuring is the abandonment of naturalistic figurative art on portable pieces or on cave walls in the Magdalenian in favor of abstract expression on small pebbles. Recent work shows that the transformation of human societies between the Magdalenian and the Azilian was more gradual. The discovery of a new Early Azilian site with decorated stones in France supports this hypothesis. While major changes in stone tool technology between the Magdalenian and Azilian clearly mark important adaptive changes, the discovery of 45 engraved schist tablets from archaeological layers at Le Rocher de l'Imp√©ratrice attests to iconographic continuity together with special valorization of aurochs as shown by a “shining” bull depiction. This evidence suggests that some cultural features such as iconography may lag far behind technological changes. We also argue that eventual change in symbolic expression, which includes the later disappearance of figurative art, provides new insight into the probable restructuring of the societies.

Concepts: Science, Technology, Western culture, Society, Neolithic, Abstract art, Upper Paleolithic, Magdalenian


Exposure to art increases the appreciation of artworks. Here, we showed that this effect is domain independent. After viewing images of histological stains in a lecture, ratings increased for restricted subsets of abstract art images. In contrast, a lecture on art history generally enhanced ratings for all art images presented, while a lecture on town history without any visual stimuli did not increase the ratings. Therefore, we found a domain-independent exposure effect of images of histological stains to particular abstract paintings. This finding suggests that the ‘taste’ for abstract art is altered by visual impressions that are presented outside of an artistic context.

Concepts: History of painting, Abstract art, Modernism, Western painting, Wassily Kandinsky, Art history


Abstracts of scientific reports are sometimes criticized for exaggerating significant results when compared to the corresponding full texts. Such abstracts can mislead the readers. We aimed to conduct a systematic review of overstatements in abstract conclusions in psychiatry trials.

Concepts: Abstract, Documents, Abstract art


Art preferences are affected by a number of subjective factors. This paper reports two studies which investigated whether need for closure shapes implicit art preferences. It was predicted that higher need for closure would negatively affect implicit preferences for abstract art. In study one, 60 participants were tested for dispositional need for closure and then completed an Implicit Association Test (IAT) task to measure their implicit preference for abstract (vs. figurative) paintings. In study two, 54 participants completed the same IAT task. In this experiment need for closure was both manipulated by cognitive load and tapped as a dispositional trait. Results of the studies converged in showing that after controlling for other important individual factors such as participants'expertise and cognitive ability, need for closure, both as a dispositional trait and as a situationally induced motivational state, was negatively associated with implicit preference for abstract art.

Concepts: Psychology, Affect, Cognition, Educational psychology, Motivation, Object, Abstract art, Figurative art


This biennial review covers developments in water analysis for emerging environmental contaminants over the period of 2011-2013. Analytical Chemistry’s policy is to limit reviews to a maximum of 250 significant references and to mainly focus on new trends. As a result, only a small fraction of the quality research publications could be discussed. I am excited to again have Thomas Ternes join me this year to cover the section on Pharmaceuticals and Hormones. Thomas coauthored the previous 2011 Review on Water Analysis,1 and as before, this Review is so much better with his contribution. We welcome any comments you have on this Review ( Numerous abstracts were consulted before choosing the best representative ones to present here. Abstract searches were carried out using Web of Science, and in many cases, full articles were obtained. A table of acronyms is provided (Table 1) as a quick reference to the acronyms of analytical techniques and other terms discussed in this Review, and Table 2 provides some useful websites.

Concepts: Chemistry, Calculus, Mathematical analysis, Analytical chemistry, Annotation, Abstract, Reference, Abstract art


Reflective capacity is integral to core healthcare professional practice competencies. Reflection plays a central role in teacher education as reflecting on teaching behaviours with critical analysis can potentially improve teaching practice. The humanities including narrative and the visual arts can serve as a valuable tool for fostering reflection. We conducted a multinational faculty development workshop aiming to enhance reflective capacity in medical educators by using a combination of abstract paintings and narratives. Twenty-three family physicians or physicians-in-training from 10 countries participated in the workshop. Qualitative assessment of the workshop showed that the combined use of art and narrative was well received and perceived as contributing to the reflective exercise. Participants generally felt that viewing abstract paintings had facilitated a valuable mood transformation and prepared them emotionally for the reflective writing. Our analysis found that the following themes emerged from participants' responses: (1) narratives from different countries are similar; (2) the use of art helped access feelings; (3) viewing abstract paintings facilitated next steps; (4) writing reflective narratives promoted examination of educational challenges, compassion for self and other, and building an action plan; and (5) sharing of narrative was helpful for fostering active listening and appreciating multiple perspectives. Future research might include comparing outcomes for a group participating in arts-narrative-based workshops with those of a control group using only reflective narrative or in combination with figurative art, and implementing a combination of qualitative and quantitative methods of assessment.

Concepts: Scientific method, Psychology, Education, Qualitative research, Social sciences, Humanities, Abstract art, Figurative art


We examined the influence of affective priming on the appreciation of abstract artworks using an evaluative priming task. Facial primes (showing happiness, disgust or no emotion) were presented under brief (Stimulus Onset Asynchrony, SOA = 20ms) and extended (SOA = 300ms) conditions. Differences in aesthetic liking for abstract paintings depending on the emotion expressed in the preceding primes provided a measure of the priming effect. The results showed that, for the extended SOA, artworks were liked more when preceded by happiness primes and less when preceded by disgust primes. Facial expressions of happiness, though not of disgust, exerted similar effects in the brief SOA condition. Subjective measures and a forced-choice task revealed no evidence of prime awareness in the suboptimal condition. Our results are congruent with findings showing that the affective transfer elicited by priming biases evaluative judgments, extending previous research to the domain of aesthetic appreciation.

Concepts: History of painting, Abstract art, Western painting, Wassily Kandinsky, Hans Hofmann


BACKGROUND: The inclusion of randomized controlled trials (RCTs) reported in conference abstracts in systematic reviews is controversial, partly because study design information and risk of bias is often not fully reported in the abstract. The Association for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology (ARVO) requires trial registration of abstracts submitted for their annual conference as of 2007. Our goal was to assess the feasibility of obtaining study design information critical to systematic reviews, but not typically included in conference abstracts, from the trial registration record. METHODS: We reviewed all conference abstracts presented at the ARVO meetings from 2007 through 2009, and identified 496 RCTs; 154 had a single matching registration record in Two individuals independently extracted information from the abstract and the record, including study design, sample size, inclusion criteria, masking, interventions, outcomes, funder, and investigator name and contact information. Discrepancies were resolved by consensus. We assessed the frequencies of reporting variables appearing in the abstract and the trial register and assessed agreement of information reported in both sources. RESULTS: We found a substantial amount of study design information in the record that was unavailable in the corresponding conference abstract, including eligibility criteria associated with gender (83%; 128/154); masking or blinding of study participants (53%, 82/154), persons administering treatment (30%, 46/154), and persons measuring the outcomes (40%, 61/154)); and number of study centers (58%; 90/154). Only 34% (52/154) of abstracts explicitly described a primary outcome, but a primary outcome was included in the “Primary Outcome” field in the record for 82% (126/154) of studies. One or more study interventions were reported in each abstract, but agreed exactly with those reported in only slightly more than half the time (88/154, 56%). We found no contact information for study investigators in the abstract, but this information was available in less than one quarter of records (17%; 26/154). CONCLUSION: RCT design information not reported in conference abstracts is often available in the corresponding registration record. Sometimes there is conflicting information reported in the two sources and further contact with the trial investigators may still be required.

Concepts: Experimental design, Evidence-based medicine, Randomized controlled trial,, Abstract, The Trial, Outcome, Abstract art