Experiencing art online has the same effect as going to an art gallery or enjoying nature, according to a study published in the scientific journal Frontiers in Psychology.
Visiting art galleries and museums can improve mood and well-being as well as reduce stress. But does a similar digital experience have the same effect? A study by a team of researchers from the University of Vienna, Austria, wanted to answer this question. Their result: even a short visit to an online art or cultural exhibition can have positive effects on well-being.
During the Covid-19 lockdown, cultural institutions quickly shifted from their art galleries and exhibitions in a physical space to using the internet more. For the first time, digital museums became the focus of public attention. As a consequence, people anywhere in the world with an internet connection could assess this material, allowing museums to reach a significantly larger audience than before.
“These aims seem to have been well received by the public, especially by those with low well-being and mental health issues, with evidence suggesting that a notable portion of individuals were, for the first time, seeking out online art encounters,” wrote the authors in the study.
In the new study, a team of researchers from the Department of Psychology and the Max Planck Institute of Psycholinguistics asked participants to visit the websites of several art exhibitions using their phones, tablets, or computers. The participants also rated their well-being and mood before and after the visit.
Results showed that even brief visits of just a few minutes could have a beneficial effect, with participants reporting better mood and well-being, as well as lower anxiety and feelings of loneliness. These results were similar to other interventions, including nature experiences and visits to actual art galleries. What’s more, the more meaningful or beautiful participants found the exhibit, the more positive feelings it created.
In view of these results, the authors suggest that this type of intervention could be used for some specific users, including waiting rooms, hospitals, and rural areas with limited access to art exhibitions.
“The results of this paper suggest that 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,” concluded the researchers.
Tripp M, Bignardi G, Chanda K, Specker E, Pelowski M (2022) Can a Brief Interaction With Online, Digital Art Improve Wellbeing? A Comparative Study of the Impact of Online Art and Culture Presentations on Mood, State-Anxiety, Subjective Wellbeing, and Loneliness. Frontiers in Psychology Sec.Health Psychology , https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2022.782033