Computational Paradigm to Elucidate the Effects of Arts-Based Approaches and Interventions: Individual and Collective Emerging Behaviors in Artwork Construction. Academic Article uri icon


  • Art therapy, as well as other arts-based therapies and interventions, is used to reduce pain, stress, depression, breathlessness and other symptoms in a wide variety of serious and chronic diseases, such as cancer, Alzheimer and schizophrenia. Arts-based approaches are also known to contribute to one's well-being and quality of life. However, much research is required, since the mechanisms by which these non-pharmacological treatments exert their therapeutic and psychosocial effects are not adequately understood. A typical clinical setting utilizing the arts consists of the creation work itself, such as the artwork, as well as the therapist and the patient, all of which constitute a rich and dynamic environment of occurrences. The underlying complex, simultaneous and interwoven processes of this setting are often considered intractable to human observers, and as a consequence are usually interpreted subjectively and described verbally, which affect their subsequent analyses and understanding. We introduce a computational research method for elucidating and analyzing emergent expressive and social behaviors, aiming to understand how arts-based approaches operate. Our methodology, which centers on the visual language of Statecharts and tools for its execution, enables rigorous qualitative and quantitative tracking, analysis and documentation of the underlying creation and interaction processes. Also, it enables one to carry out exploratory, hypotheses-generating and knowledge discovery investigations, which are empirical-based. Furthermore, we illustrate our method's use in a proof-of-principle study, applying it to a real-world artwork investigation with human participants. We explore individual and collective emergent behaviors impacted by diverse drawing tasks, yielding significant gender and age hypotheses, which may account for variation factors in response to art use. We also discuss how to gear our research method to systematic and mechanistic investigations, as we wish to provide a broad empirical evidence for the uptake of arts-based approaches, also aiming to ameliorate their use in clinical settings.

publication date

  • June 1, 2015