The Impact of Religion and Social Orientations on Visual Arts Appreciation
van Eijck, Koen
Dept. of Arts and Culture Studies Erasmus University Rotterdam Rotterdam, Netherlands
This study investigates visual arts prefrences in a manner that contributes to the field in two ways. First, we included characteristics of respondents that differentiate not so much between those with highbrow or lowbrow taste (as do, e.g., education and age) but that differentiate between people with a more traditional versus a more modern taste. We thus incorporated religious orientation plus six social orientations (utilitarian and expressive individualism, solidarity, communitarianism, social isolation, and social disorientation) in our models. These items indicate elements of people's more general outlook on life, or habitus, which are likely to affect - or be expressed through - their specific cultural taste. Second, cultural taste is not measured using survey questions about participation in general cultural categories, but by presenting respondents with nine colour plates depicting different visual art styles. Our results were obtained using a Flemish sample of over 2500 adult respondents. The analyses show that there are clear relations between religion and, especially, our set of social orientations on the one hand, and preferences for more traditional versus more modern art styles, on the other. Traditional styles are mostly appreciated by catholic respondents and atheists (or: non-religious liberals), albeit probably for different reasons. The atheists also appreciate the modern works more than any other group. In addition, for modern works, we see a clear negative relation between appreciation scores and being more religious in general. As for the social orientations, solidarity and communitarianism are most clearly positively related to the appreciation of traditional works of art. These orientations were negatively related to the appreciation of modern styles, as were utilitarian individualism and social disorientation. Our study demonstrates that 1] it is necessary to differentiate between (legitimate) artistic styles in order to understand cultural tastes; 2] we need other background indicators than the usual set of sociodemographics in order to understand cultural taste differentiation in any substantial detail; and 3] the same work of art can be appreciated for different reasons by different people and thus be embedded in different taste patterns.