Along with the debate on the role of culture in development and the consequent establishment of culture-based local strategies, a significant number of impact evaluation studies have been produced to demonstrate culture’s instrumental function. This article explains that the rationale behind this impact research has been biased towards economic appraisals, and it advocates bringing social and intangible dimensions, beyond the tangible and monetary ones, into the debate. This change can highlight the mechanisms through which culture and the arts can enrich societies and individuals. In doing this, and on the basis of a literature review, the article presents the current practices in social impact assessments of cultural activities, by describing the type of documents identified, the project beneficiaries and providers, the contexts in which assessments take place, the cultural inputs and artistic forms that drive the potential effects, the main impact areas covered by the studies, the time frame for the impact analyses and the methodological approaches. Moreover, it stresses the complexity and constraints of conducting social impact appraisals, arguing that these challenges might also keep researchers away.