The Experimental Psychology of Beauty

By C. W. Valentine | Go to book overview

Chapter VI THE APPEARANCE OF AESTHETIC APPRECIATION IN YOUNG CHILDREN

We have now dealt with the fundamental points of colour and elementary form, balance and design sufficiently to be prepared to tackle the more interesting but more complex problem of the enjoyment of pictures. Here, however, I should like to interpolate a very brief chapter on the topic indicated, partly because it gives the opportunity of reporting several interesting and rather laborious researches on children, which could not very well be introduced into the earlier or later chapters without breaking the continuity of our argument. The second reason is that I think it is worth while reporting some responses to beauty in nature in very young children, and their early use of words which does seem to imply some understanding of the aesthetic aspect of things. This short digression may be justified, I think, on the ground that it helps us to interpret some experiments on very young children.

My own children used the word "pretty", at least as early as 3 years, in reference to flowers and pictures. The boy B as early as 2;2 exclaimed "pickby" (pretty) when he saw the sun suddenly burst through the dark sky. If he had heard his mother or myself refer to such a sight it would certainly not have been the word "pretty" that would be used, but 'beautiful' or 'lovely' or 'wonderful'; so he was not merely repeating something specifically learned. The girl Y at 2;7 spontaneously said to her mother, "You are pretty", and to her sister, "Let me see your 'pretty' frock", so the word "pretty" was not learned merely in reference to flowers and only flowers. That the word "pretty" was in some way generalized is also shown by the fact that the girl Y, at 2;7, was very decided in her preference for the pretty faces in Binet's well-known test with three pairs of pretty and ugly faces, now usually assigned

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