ENS, Institut Jean Nicod, Salle de réunion, ground floor, Pavillon Jardin 29 rue d’Ulm, 75005 Paris
Are our aesthetic values and the way we engage with the arts an essential part of our identity ? To what extent do our aesthetic preferences constitute who we are ? I will discuss studies on an Aesthetic Self-Effect supporting the claim that we are aesthetic selves. Here, counterfactual changes in aesthetic preferences – such as from liking pop to liking classical music – were perceived as threatening a person’s identity. The effect is as strong as the one found for moral changes – such as altering political partisanship or religious orientation. Exploring the breadth of this effect we also found evidence of an Anaesthetic Self-Effect : Scenarios that describe the initial adoption of an aesthetic preference – for instance from not caring to caring about music and art – also elicited strong judgments. I will discuss whether these effects constitute genuinely aesthetic effects or are mostly driven by social signaling attached to the art forms and genres we included in our studies. Taken together we found evidence for a genuine aesthetic self : when our taste in music and the arts or our aesthetic interests change, we take these changes to severely affect our identity.