History, causal information, and the neuroscience of art

toward a psycho-historical theory

Nicolas J. Bullot*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


Scientists in the behavioral and brain sciences argue that experimental studies of the perceptual, hedonic, and cognitive responses to works of art are the building blocks of an emerging science of aesthetic and artistic appreciation. This science is referred to with terms such as psychobiology of aesthetics (Berlyne 1971), neuroaesthetics (Chatterjee 2011), science of art (Ramachandran & Hirstein 1999), or aesthetic science (Shimamura & Palmer 2012). Proponents of a scientific approach to art often defend a psychological approach to art theory. Here, I use the term ‘psychological approach’ broadly to denote methods that attempt to explain aesthetic and artistic phenomena by means of reference to mental and brain mechanisms. Research in the psychology of art does not essentially differ from neuroaesthetics with respect to their relations to art history and philosophical aesthetics. Both neuroscientists and psychologists tend to think that art appreciation depends on internal mechanisms that reflect the cognitive architecture of the human mind (Kreitler & Kreitler 1972; Leder et al. 2004; Zeki 1999). Like neuroscientists, psychologists present artworks as ‘stimuli’ in their experiments (Martindale et al. 1990; McManus et al. 1993; Locher et al. 1996). Both traditions are dominated by the psychological approach understood as an attempt to analyze the mental and neural processes involved in the appreciation of artworks.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationBrain Theory
Subtitle of host publicationEssays in Critical Neurophilosophy
Place of PublicationHoundmills, Basingstoke
PublisherPalgrave Macmillan
Number of pages23
ISBN (Electronic)9780230369580
ISBN (Print)9780230369573
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2014

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