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The Effects of the Explicit Naming of Discrepancies between History Paintings and Historical Evidence on the Cognitive Processing, Evaluation and Memory of Pictorial Elements.

WorkgroupRealistic Depictions
Duration08/2017 – 08/2021
FundingIWM Budget resources
Project description

Viewers tend to perceive pictorial representations of historical events, such as those found in museums of history or art history, as a reliable source of information about the event depicted. However, paintings often intentionally distort reality, which requires a deeper de- and reconstructive examination. This PhD project investigated effects of an explicit naming of the discrepancy between a history painting and historical evidence on the viewing of the picture.

Based on the model of narrative engagement (Busselle & Bilandzic, 2008), it was expected that viewers are less transported into the event depicted, if discrepancies between the painting and the historical event are named. This should have additionally enabled a critical examination of the constructed reality of the image. On the basis of Content-Source-Integration Model (CSI; Stadtler & Bromme, 2014), it was expected that the naming of discrepancies influences the cognitive processing of source and image information, the evaluation of credibility, and the recall of pictorial elements. Based on the Vienna Integrated Model of Art Perception (VIMAP; Pelowski et al., 2017), discrepancies were expected to reduce aesthetic liking of pictures. The cognitive processes were investigated using eye-tracking. Knowledge tests and self-reports were used to measure the resulting memory and the evaluation of the painting by the viewers. Across studies, the results showed that the power of picture narratives to transport recipients into the narrative was not consistently hampered by pointing out the pictures’ wrongly presented facts about the “real” historic event. The explicit naming of discrepancies led to longer processing times on the pictorial content, indicating conflict detection. Viewers also engaged in sourcing behaviour and used source information together with information about the content to rate trustworthiness of the documents. Trustworthiness of the paintings was rated lower with discrepancies named, but there was evidence that additional information explaining the discrepancies compensated this negative effect. Similarly, explanations compensated lower aesthetic liking with discrepancies named. For the design of image-accompanying audio texts used in museums of history and art history it can therefore be recommended to provide an explanation for named discrepancies directly after their naming.


Knoos, M., Glaser, M., & Schwan, S. (2021). Multiple documents of text and picture: Naming a historical painting’s inaccuracies influences conflict regulation strategies. Contemporary Educational Psychology, 65, Article 101970.

Knoos, M., Glaser, M., & Schwan, S. (2021). Aesthetic experience of representational art: Liking is affected by audio-information naming and explaining inaccuracies of historical paintings. Frontiers in Psychology, 12, Article 3009. Open Access