“Art or ad?: The influence of genre-attribution on the interpretation of images.” SPIEL 18: 279-300.
Abstract: The interpretation of an image is not only guided by text-intenal information, but also by the genre to which it belongs. To test this hypothesis, this paper presents an exploratory empirical investigation. Three related images without accompanying text were shown to two groups of subjects; to one group as if they were advertisements, to the other group as if they were artistic representations. The hypothesis that the different genre-attributions influenced the interpretations by the subjects was confirmed. A notable difference was that people in the “ad condition” projected positive associations from the most salient object in the picture onto the (unknown) product, while people in the “art condition” commented upon various contrasts and tensions between these salient objects and their contexts. The results are discussed with reference to Siegfried Schmidt’s (1991) distinction between polyvalence versus monovalence conventions, and between esthetic and fact conventions. Keywords: Genre, Interpretation conventions, Relevance theory, Empirical research, IBM.