Art as Communication: Employing Gricean Principles of Communication as a Model for Art Appreciation

By Melissa J. Dolese, Aaron Kozbelt and Curtis Hardin.

Published by The International Journal of the Image

Format Price
Article: Print $US10.00
Published online: June 5, 2014 $US5.00

How and why art elicits different responses from different people remains a contentious topic, with many unresolved issues. Some have argued that a key aspect of a positive aesthetic experience concerns the ability of viewers to construct meaning. But why is art viewing an arena for meaning making? We propose that viewers construct meaning of art in the context of a kind of interpersonal conversation with the artist in which both are tacitly assumed to follow fundamental conversational rules. Here we apply one well-known intentionalist model of verbal communication, the Gricean “cooperative principle” and its constituent four conversational maxims, to visual art. We argue that this is an interesting model to apply to art because it may explain common, qualitatively different, responses to art via tacit assumptions that the artist is either adhering to the cooperative principle or purposefully opting out of the conversation with the viewer. Several artistic examples and relevant empirical research are reviewed to show how this perspective explains the differential experiences art-trained and non-art-trained individuals have of abstract and conceptual art.

Keywords: Art Preferences, Gricean Model, Communication, Meaning Making

The International Journal of the Image, Volume 4, Issue 3, June 2014, pp.63-70. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Published online: June 5, 2014 (Article: Electronic (PDF File; 366.502KB)).

Dr. Melissa J. Dolese

Graduate Student, Psychology, City University of New York, New York City, New York, USA

Aaron Kozbelt

Professor, Department of Psychology, City University of New York, New York City, New York, USA

Dr. Curtis Hardin

Professor, Department of Psychology, Brooklyn College, Brooklyn, New York, USA