Art has this surprisingly obvious impact on intelligence

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There’s something about art that entices the brain, even for those who don’t consider themselves to be fans of art.

For example, if you go to a museum, you’re bound to find yourself looking at a work of art and immediately asking questions about it. What does it imply? How was it created? When was it created? What was the purpose of the artist in creating it?

I imagine it’s a very similar reaction for the artist. They too have to ask questions, about what medium to use, what colors or melodies.

Now research has indicated that exposure to art makes us smart.

11,000 students from various schools participated in the study, with half of them being part of a test group that was selected entirely at random. The students attended a free tour of the Crystal Bridges museum in Arkansas, and were later given a series of assessment tests.

“Students who, by lottery, were selected to visit the museum on a field trip demonstrated stronger critical thinking skills, displayed higher levels of social tolerance, exhibited greater historical empathy and developed a taste for art museums and cultural institutions.”

Exposure to the art reportedly caused students to not only think about the artwork itself, but to also consider how the artwork was created, when it was created and under what historical context. The experience notably elevated students ability to think critically.

Why is this so?

“We can conclude that visiting an art museum exposes students to a diversity of ideas that challenge them with different perspectives on the human condition.”

Art forces us think critically, increasing our tolerances, considering the history of ourselves and all mankind, and helps us develop our own unique taste for the arts themselves.

The flip side of the coin – for the creators, not the observers, of art – is equally weighted. Creating art forces you to think. It’s not enough to simply place a brush against a canvas or pull a bow across the strings of a violin. You must answer a thousand questions in your heart and mind before you make a single stroke or strike a single chord.

Art can make us smart.

But only if we invest the time to observe it and – for the creative group – make it. So go consume more art today and make some too. You’ll be better off for it.