UMBC Researchers Move Ahead: Exploring the Arts-Culture-Behavior Connection
In the fall of 2012, fifteen UMBC researchers assembled to submit a cutting edge proposal to a fledgling program at the National Institutes of Health. It was to explore some basic mechanisms that connect culture and health. Though we did not get the grant, the subject and the discussions we had were engaging. We want to keep exploring this research thread. In a meeting on 5/16/13, I promised to post the description (below) of the gist of our concept to gather our thoughts about it and take a snapshot of where we are. (I improved it just a bit since the meeting—it’s starting to get comprehensible). Please post comments to capture the valuable perspectives you all shared in the meeting, and any further thoughts you have.
Here it is:
Our culture-based approach to affecting behavior deserves to be tested. Our hypothesis comes from triangulating research from a number of disciplines including ancient studies, the arts, art history, anthropology, social psychology and education. We believe it is possible that arts making, around a subject of concern—say health or education, and the artifacts it produces can cultivate local culture and a psychological sense of community. These, in turn, might influence social norms in the forms of beliefs, attitudes, intentions and behaviors. We are now asking how/when/where might artist-facilitators work with a local population to investigate the process and its impact? Is ethnography the best way to study the processes of change? If we are at the beginning of this line of research, shouldn’t we be trying to determine whether it works rather than how it works?