The researchers sought to answer the question of aesthetics by estimating what is it that we find aesthetically pleasing in poetry.
"People disagree on what they like, of course," said Amy Belfi, who was a postdoctoral fellow in New York University (NYU) at the time of the study and is the lead author of the study.
The study was published in the journal Psychology of Aesthetics, Creativity, and the Arts. Ms. Amy said that despite having disagreements on individual level, there were certain factors which consistently influenced how much a poem could be enjoyed.
As part of the research, 400 people read and rated poems of two genres - haiku and sonnet. This was done so as to understand the factors which best predicted the aesthetic appeal of the poems.
After reading each poem, participants had to answer questions about the poem's vividness, emotional arousal, emotional valence and aesthetic appeal.
The result showed that vividness of mental imagery in the poems was by far the best predictor of aesthetic appeal and poems which evoked greater imagery were found to be more pleasing.
However, the researchers also found that the readers could not uniformly agree which poem they found more appealing thus reinforcing that people have different tastes. Nonetheless, it could be said that vividness of imagery and emotional valence form a common ground on which the aesthetic quotient of a poem could be measured.
"The vividness of a poem consistently predicted its aesthetic appeal," said Gabrielle Starr, dean of NYU's College of Arts and Science.
She added that mental imagery may be the key component in influencing what we like. Though limited to poetry, she said, the work seeks to explain what factors influence our aesthetic judgements and hence can lay the ground work for future research investigating how we make such judgements in other domains.
(With Inputs from PTI)
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