Table of Contents

Handbook of Research Methods and Applications in Happiness and Quality of Life

Handbook of Research Methods and Applications in Happiness and Quality of Life

Handbooks of Research Methods and Applications series

Edited by Luigino Bruni and Pier Luigi Porta

Offering a thorough assessment of the recent developments in the economic literature on happiness and quality of life, this Handbook astutely considers both methods of estimation and policy application. The expert contributors critically present in-depth research on a wide range of topics including culture and media, inequality, and the relational and emotional side of human life. Accessible and far-reaching, it will prove an invaluable resource for students and scholars of welfare and economics.

Chapter 16: Culture and fine arts: open-ended choices and the formation of interest

Marina Bianchi

Subjects: economics and finance, economic psychology, welfare economics, research methods, research methods in economics


One of the fundamental dimensions of art is its ability to de-familiarize, to question the known, to create a contrast with the patterns of everyday life. But if art creates doubts, if it challenges our certainties and our ‘learned’ responses, why should we regard it as interesting, much less enjoyable? Recent psychological literature on aesthetic preferences has addressed precisely this question and has begun to analyze the emotional and affective value of complex goods such as art. We are used to thinking of aesthetic preferences as related to art only. Yet aesthetics has a much larger scope and includes all those goods and activities that we enjoy for the challenges they provide in terms of novelty and complexity, goods that include design and architecture, fashion and advertising, but range also to activities such as conversation and conviviality, political and social involvement, and the enjoyment of nature. What is argued in this chapter is that creative activities, pursued primarily for the intrinsic reward they provide, are also those mainly responsible for keeping curiosity, exploration and interest alive. Because of their complexity and evolving nature, these activities are open ended. They allow for constant new connections and associations to be discovered and pursued. This makes them the material for an engaging and enjoyable life.

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