Analysis of Artistic Change Martindales Regressive Imagery Dictionary

To identify regularities underlying changes in artistic work over time, Martindale (1990) developed a word count program that is based on the Regressive Imagery Dictionary. Martindale's (1990) theorizing starts from the observation that artistic work shows a steady increase in complexity over time. He explains this increase by drawing on two funda mental psychological processes: humans' preference for medium levels of arousal (and hence moderately complex sensory input) and the physiological mechanism of stimulus habituation (leading to changes in what is considered moderately complex). Grounded in psychodynamic thinking, he plotted how two major linguistic dimensions in literature, primordial (i.e., primary process) and conceptual (i.e., secondary process) cognition, have changed over the decades.

Martindale's Regressive Imagery Dictionary has been translated into several languages (e.g., French, German, and Portuguese). The English version is composed of about 3,200 words and word stems that fall into 29 categories of primary process cognition (e.g., regressive cognition, Icarian imagery), 7 categories of secondary process cognition (e.g., abstraction, social behavior), and 7 emotion categories (e.g., positive affect, anxiety).

Over the last 30 years, Martindale (1990) has accumulated an impressive body of studies that identify linguistic indicators of an aesthetic evolution. Unfortunately, his work has not enjoyed widespread attention in mainstream psychology (cf. Bestgen, 1994; Hogenraad, McKenzie, Morval, & Ducharme, 1995). As depicted in Table 11.2, Martindale's text analysis approach is instrumental in aim, thematic in approach, and broad in bandwidth. It focuses on the content of literature from a psychodynamic perspective.

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