Machine learning revealed symbolism, emotionality, and imaginativeness as primary predictors of creativity evaluations of western art paintings

Blanca T. M. Spee, Jan Mikuni, Helmut Leder, Frank Scharnowski, Matthew Pelowski, David Steyrl

Creativity is a compelling yet elusive phenomenon, especially when manifested in visual art, where its evaluation is often a subjective and complex process. Understanding how individuals judge creativity in visual art is a particularly intriguing question. Conventional linear approaches often fail to capture the intricate nature of human behavior underlying such judgments. Therefore, in this study, we employed interpretable machine learning to probe complex associations between 17 subjective art-attributes and creativity judgments across a diverse range of artworks. A cohort of 78 non-art expert participants assessed 54 artworks varying in styles and motifs. The applied Random Forests regressor models accounted for 30% of the variability in creativity judgments given our set of art-attributes. Our analyses revealed symbolism, emotionality, and imaginativeness as the primary attributes influencing creativity judgments. Abstractness, valence, and complexity also had an impact, albeit to a lesser degree. Notably, we observed non-linearity in the relationship between art-attribute scores and creativity judgments, indicating that changes in art-attributes did not consistently correspond to changes in creativity judgments. Employing statistical learning, this investigation presents the first attribute-integrating quantitative model of factors that contribute to creativity judgments in visual art among novice raters. Our research represents a significant stride forward building the groundwork for first causal models for future investigations in art and creativity research and offering implications for diverse practical applications. Beyond enhancing comprehension of the intricate interplay and specificity of attributes used in evaluating creativity, this work introduces machine learning as an innovative approach in the field of subjective judgment.

Vienna Cognitive Science Hub, Department of Cognition, Emotion, and Methods in Psychology
Scientific Reports
Publication date
Peer reviewed
Austrian Fields of Science 2012
501002 Applied psychology, 301401 Brain research, 102019 Machine learning
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