DOES ART IMPROVE MOOD? A TEST OF A KEY ASSUMPTION UNDERLYING ART THERAPY
We investigated whether artmaking improves mood, and if so, whether this effect is best explained by “catharsis” or “redirection.” In Experiment 1, participants viewed tragic images and then either drew a picture based on their feelings or copied shapes. Those who drew exhibited more positive mood after drawing; those who copied shapes did not. Mood improved equally for those who drew negative and nonnegative images, suggesting that for some, catharsis led to improved mood and that for others, redirection led to improved mood. In Experiment 2, to test whether artmaking improved mood simply because people were distracted by making a drawing, we gave participants a word puzzle to complete, a task that does not allow expression of feeling through symbolic content. Completion of a word puzzle did not improve mood. These results suggest that artmaking increases the pleasure dimension of mood and does so via either catharsis or redirection.