Picture Perfect?

This column originally appeared in The Observer magazine/Guardian online

 What do your preferences in art tell us about your personality? To find out, simply choose which of these two pictures you prefer.

A study conducted at the University of Amsterdam found that participants who prefer abstract over figurative (i.e., “traditional”) paintings generally score higher on measures of sensation seeking. Those who prefer figurative (i.e., traditional) paintings (who also tend to dislike open-ended plays) score higher on tests that measure “need for cognitive closure”.  That is, they show a strong preference for order (e.g., for rules and hierarchies in the workplace), predictability (e.g., daily or weekly routines), and decisiveness (“I don’t care which, but please pick one now!”) and are uncomfortable with ambiguity (e.g., they tend to see arguments in terms of who’s right and who’s wrong, rather than as mere differences of opinion).

A fully referenced version of this article is available at benambridge.com. Order Psy-Q by Ben Ambridge (Profile Books, £8.99) for £6.99 at bookshop.theguardian.com

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