Object representations and the perception of symbolic content in a work of art
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To explore an object relations model for individual cultural development, the effects of conceptual object representation levels on the ability to discern symbolic elements in music and to comprehend elements of the composer's representational world through his work were assessed in a normal subject sample. Premises of the study were that there is structural, symbolic content in a work of art; that this content conveys aspects of the artist's internal life; and that the aesthetic moment can be regarded as a form of object relation for the beholder. As such, this process should be subject to the capacities and limitations of any object relationship, which have been reliably shown amenable to object representational assessment.;Subjects were first administered an object representations measure based on parental descriptions. They then heard three classical music excerpts, after which they selected among twelve thematic paragraphs the best matches to the composition they had just heard. Randomly presented, two paragraphs were constructed to parallel the relevant composition in structure and mood, while two matched it in mood only. The remaining paragraphs were similarly designed to match the other compositions. Subjects were then asked to write character descriptions of the composer, even if they could not identify him. The procedure was repeated for each composition.;It was originally hypothesized that positive correlations would be found between the conceptual level of object representations and (1) the ability to successfully match compositions with paragraphs paralleling them in structure and mood and (2) assessed object representation levels for subjects' composer descriptions, based on the idea that subjects who conceptualized their parents in a sophisticated manner would be able to extend this ability to other humanly based stimuli. Initial data inspection led to an additional hypothesized correlation between object representation levels and general biographical accuracy for each composer.;Results demonstrated that these correlations exist. They were taken as support for the idea that there is structural symbolic content in a work of art, that the aesthetic moment constitutes a form of object relationship, and that the symbolic content conveyed therein is more available to those whose object representations have attained higher conceptual levels than to those for whom they remain at lower levels of differentiation, articulation, and integration.