Carol D. Ryff and Karen Grøn: Art and Research on Psychological Well-being

Carol d. Ryff, Ph. D., University of Wisconsin-Madison. Director, Institute on Aging and Karen Grøn, Museum director, Trapholt

Over 25 years ago, Carol Ryff developed a theoretical framework for studying psychological well-being (PWB), which includes six key dimensions: autonomy, environmental mastery, personal growth, positive relations with others, purpose in life, and self-acceptance. More than 350 studies have been generated with this model. Findings show how well-being varies by age, gender, socioeconomic status, ethnicity, culture as well as by the events and experiences that individuals confront in their life journeys, along with people’s religious beliefs and practices. Numerous studies have documented links between well-being and health, including assessments of biological risk factors and brain mechanisms.

Drawing on terms from the ancient Greeks, Dr. Ryff has contrasted her “eudaimonic” well-being with “hedonic” formulations, which emphasize happiness, positive affect, and life satisfaction. Largely missing from the burgeoning literature on well-being is how experiences with art, and the humanities in general (e.g., music, literature, poetry) matter for positive psychological functioning.

The collaboration with Trapholt is the first large study to be addressing links between art and psychological well-being. With the new facility “YOUR exhibition” at Trapholt, the audience is invited to try being curators in the museum. Through initial research in creating the exhibition, Trapholt has experienced that audiences radically change their perception on art after having tried to curate – does this mean that their well being when being in an art museum has increased in general, and that art has an impact on their well being all together? As a part of the national research hub “Bæredygtighedens Prisme” Trapholt has had the chance to invite Carol Ryff to a workshop about creating the research design about Art Museum Well Being, with point of departure in Carol Ryff theory and framework about Psychological Wellbeing.

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