Scientists have long argued that viewing art while visiting museums and galleries can have a strong impact on people’s mood, stress levels, and well-being. But does the same phenomenon happen when viewing art in digital spaces? A new study led by the University of Vienna has found that engaging with art online has indeed similar positive effects. According to the experts, a short three-minute visit to an online art or cultural exhibition can have highly positive effects on subjective well-being.
When the Covid-19 pandemic struck in 2020 and lockdowns were imposed all over the world, arts and cultural institutions shifted from their physical venues to the internet. For the first time in history, digital art galleries and online museums became widespread and the focus of public attention. “Virtual tours emerged, encouraging people to “visit the museum from their couches” and, for the first time, engaging with art and culture online was on the minds of a broad audience,” explained the study authors.
While over the past decade, researchers have conducted a variety of studies demonstrating that art has a positive impact on health and well-being, it was unclear whether these effects can also emerge from engaging with online art. In this new study, scientists asked a group of participants to visit several art exhibitions via smartphones, tablets, and computers, and measured their psychological states and well-being in order to determine to what extent viewing art on the internet might be beneficial.
The results suggest that even very brief viewings of online art can have significant effects, improving participants’ moods and subjective well-being, and reducing feelings of anxiety and loneliness. The more meaningful or beautiful people found the art to be, the more positive feelings they had while viewing it. These effects are comparable to other interventions, including nature experiences or visits to physical art galleries.
These findings highlight the importance of art on health and well-being and opens directions for future research and applications in spaces such as hospitals, waiting rooms, or rural areas where access to art is limited. “Online cultural engagement, including but not limited to fine art, does seem to be a viable tool to support individuals’ mood, anxiety, loneliness, and well-being, especially when such content is beautiful, meaningful, and inspires positive cognitive-emotional states in the viewer,” the authors concluded.
The study is published in the journal Frontiers in Psychology.
By Andrei Ionescu, Earth.com Staff Writer