What makes a poem touch your heart?
New research suggests that poetry that triggers vivid mental images and positive emotions tends to be the most enjoyed.
For the study, researchers had more than 400 people read and rate two types of poems — haikus and sonnets.
“People disagree on what they like, of course,” said study author Amy Belfi, a postdoctoral fellow in New York University’s department of psychology.
But, “while it may seem obvious that individual taste matters in judgments of poetry, we found that despite individual disagreement, it seems that certain factors consistently influence how much a poem will be enjoyed,” she said in an NYU news release.
Study co-author G. Gabrielle Starr added that “the vividness of a poem consistently predicted its aesthetic appeal. Therefore, it seems that vividness of mental imagery may be a key component influencing what we like more broadly.”
Starr, who was dean of NYU’s College of Arts and Science at the time of the research, is now president of Pomona College in Claremont, Calif.
“While limited to poetry, our work sheds light into which components most influence our aesthetic judgments and paves the way for future research investigating how we make such judgments in other domains,” Starr said.
The findings were published Nov. 30 in the journal Psychology of Aesthetics, Creativity, and the Arts.
To learn more, visit the Academy of American Poets.