Category Archives: art

Art and the Brain

Jonah Lehrer, a neuroscientist and writer I’ve mentioned many times, has a wonderful article in Psychology Today that looks at the field of neuroaesthetics and how the brain interprets art.

All the adjectives we use to describe art-vague words like “beauty” and “elegance”-should, in theory, have neural correlates. According to these scientists, there is nothing inherently mysterious about art. Its visual tricks can be decoded. Neuroaestheticians hope to reveal “the universal laws” of painting and sculpture, to find the underlying principles shared by every great work of visual art.

In the article Lehrer proposes The 10 Great Principles of Great Art and in the accompanying interview he challenges the supposition that neuroaesthetics will “unweave the rainbow” of great art.

    Related: Dr Shock takes a brief look at the relationship between architecture and neuroscience.

    via Mind Hacks

    Context and Aesthetic Judgements

    It’s no surprise that perceived context is important in influencing people’s decisions. A recent experiment has shown that people rate pictures as more aesthetically pleasing (and actually experience more pleasure while viewing them) if they believe they come from art galleries.

    Aesthetic judgments, like most judgments, depend on context. Whether an object or image is seen in daily life or in an art gallery can significantly modulate the aesthetic value humans attach to it. We investigated the neural system supporting this modulation by presenting human subjects with artworks under different contexts whilst acquiring fMRI data. Using the same database of artworks, we randomly labelled images as being either sourced from a gallery or computer generated. Subjects’ aesthetic ratings were significantly higher for stimuli viewed in the ‘gallery’ than ‘computer’ contexts.

    via @vaughanbell

    Interpreting Hybrid Images

    Remember how the Mona Lisa’s famous smile was painted in low spatial frequencies, hence why we interpret the face differently depending on where we look?

    Now, Mo of Neurophilosophy takes an in-depth look at how our brains interpret hybrid images and complex visual scenes, shedding more light on this effective imaging technique. He also links to the hybrid images section of MIT’s Computational Visual Cognition Lab which contains a fairly mind-boggling gallery of hybrid images.

    Beauty as Human Reason

    Human reason and abstract thought are prerequisites for the appreciation of beauty, argues Roger Scruton in his latest book, Beauty. However in his review of Beauty, Sebastian Smee—art critic of the Boston Globe—finds himself disagreeing with the sentiment.

    [Scruton] is swayed by Plato’s idea that beauty is not just an invitation to desire, but a call to renounce it. The idea sounds counterintuitive, but it chimes with the feeling we often have that the most beautiful things are somehow inviolate. Scruton argues that our inability to maintain the necessary distance and our failure to respect the sovereignty of the objects we consider beautiful have helped to bring about what he calls a “flight from beauty.” The phrase is resonant. Few who have registered developments in art, architecture and other aspects of life over the past 50 to 100 years could have failed to notice that beauty has suffered a demotion. From its position as a fundamental value in art, it has been reduced to a frivolous side issue or, worse, a carrier of tainted ideologies and clichés.

    via Arts and Letters Daily