A recent study, published in Psychology & Marketing by scientists at Michigan State University, found men and women appreciate art differently. The study was aptly titled,
The study aimed to uncover “how consumers determine the worth of artwork,” according to Stephanie Mangus, co-author of the study.
The study included 518 participants. Each participant looked at two unfamiliar paintings that featured made-up biographies of the artist next to them.
Half of the paintings featured bios that described the artist as a ‘lifelong painter who creates unique work.’ While the other half featured bios that described the artist as an ordinary painter who took up the craft only recently.
The study found that when artists were described as authentic, people were overall more inclined to buy that artist’s work, and were willing to pay a higher price for it.
An excerpt from the study discussed that although people overall were drawn to the authentic artists simply because they were described as authentic, the actual artwork was a bigger factor for women.
It is important to note this was a marketing study, not a scientific experiment. This is fundamental because it calls into question the methods used to collect the data that produced these results.
There are a few essential things to consider when looking at this study.
Foremost, how were the 518 people selected? Are they all the same age, or from the same area? If so, they are not an accurate representation of the population as a whole. In addition, if the data was not collected in a systematic and uniform way, the results may be skewed.
Also, the main finding was people were drawn to art made by authentic artists. However, the study focuses on the fact that although the majority of men and women favored authentic artists, they did so for different reasons. However, it is unclear how they made this distinction between men and women, which is a huge red flag.
The fact people favored authentic artists should have been the hard end point in this study, the response variable that matters. Unfortunately, the difference in how men and women concluded they favored authentic artists was presented as the hard end point, when in fact it is only a correlation.
Consider this quote from a co-author of the study,
“Women are more willing to go through a complicated process of actually evaluating the artwork,” Mangus said, “whereas men may say, ‘This guy’s a great artist, so I’ll buy his art.'”
While this notion seems plausible, there is no evidence in the study that qualitatively explains this difference. Therefore, this theory, only just a theory. Unfortunately, the way it is presented in the study makes it seem as though the study proved this to be true.
Essentially, this study is a perfect example of a type one error, a false positive. It concludes something is going on when, in fact, nothing is. If this study focused solely on how people appreciate art, it would be correct in its findings based on the data presented.