What are aesthetic emotions?

Psychol Rev. 2019 Mar;126(2):171-195. doi: 10.1037/rev0000135.


This is the first comprehensive theoretical article on aesthetic emotions. Following Kant's definition, we propose that it is the first and foremost characteristic of aesthetic emotions to make a direct contribution to aesthetic evaluation/appreciation. Each aesthetic emotion is tuned to a special type of perceived aesthetic appeal and is predictive of the subjectively felt pleasure or displeasure and the liking or disliking associated with this type of appeal. Contrary to the negativity bias of classical emotion catalogues, emotion terms used for aesthetic evaluation purposes include far more positive than negative emotions. At the same time, many overall positive aesthetic emotions encompass negative or mixed emotional ingredients. Appraisals of intrinsic pleasantness, familiarity, and novelty are preeminently important for aesthetic emotions. Appraisals of goal relevance/conduciveness and coping potential are largely irrelevant from a pragmatic perspective, but in some cases highly relevant for cognitive and affective coping. Aesthetic emotions are typically sought and savored for their own sake, with subjectively felt intensity and/or emotional arousal being rewards in their own right. The expression component of aesthetic emotions includes laughter, tears, and facial and bodily movements, along with applause or booing and words of praise or blame. Aesthetic emotions entail motivational approach and avoidance tendencies, specifically, tendencies toward prolonged, repeated, or interrupted exposure and wanting to possess aesthetically pleasing objects. They are experienced across a broad range of experiential domains and not coextensive with art-elicited emotions. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2019 APA, all rights reserved).

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Emotions*
  • Esthetics*
  • Humans