Is art appreciation universal? Previous evidence suggests a general preference for representational art over abstract art, and a tendency to like art originating from one's own culture more than another culture (an ingroup bias), modulated by art expertise. However, claims about universality are difficult given that most research has focused on Western populations. Across two pre-registered and statistically powered experiments, we explore the role of culture and art expertise in the aesthetic evaluation of Indian and Western paintings and dance depicting both abstract and representational content, by inviting expert and art-naïve Indian and Western participants to rate stimuli on beauty and liking. Results suggest an ingroup bias (for dance) and a preference for representational art (for paintings) exists, both modulated by art expertise. As predicted, the ingroup bias was present only in art-naïve participants, and the preference for representational art was lower in art experts, but this modulation was present only in Western participants. The current findings have two main implications: (1) they inform and constrain understanding of universality of aesthetic appreciation, cautioning against generalising models of empirical aesthetics to non-western populations and across art forms, (2) they highlight the importance of art experience as a medium to counter prejudices.
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