The artful mind meets art history: A psycho-historical foundation for empirical aesthetics

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    Research seeking a scientific foundation for the theory of art appreciation has raised controversies at the intersection of the social and cognitive sciences. Though equally relevant to a scientific inquiry into art appreciation, psychological and historical approaches to art developed independently and lack a common core of theoretical principles. Historicists argue that psychological and brain sciences ignore the fact that artworks are artifacts produced and appreciated in the context of unique historical situations and artistic intentions. After revealing flaws in empirical aesthetics, which belongs to the psychological approach to art, we review the psycho-historical framework for the science of art appreciation (Bullot & Reber, 2012). This framework demonstrates that a science of art appreciation must investigate how appreciators process causal and historical information to classify and explain their psychological responses to art. Expanding on research about the cognition of artifacts, we identify three modes of appreciation: basic exposure to an artwork, which is the mode most often investigated by empirical aesthetics; the artistic design stance, which is an attitude whereby appreciators develop their sensitivity to art-historical contexts by means of inquiries into the making, authorship, and functions of artworks. The design stance, in turn, is a prerequisite for artistic understanding, which is based on proficiency in art-historical contexts and allows theory-based reasoning about the causal history of an artwork. We defend and illustrate the psycho-historical framework with an analysis of existing studies on art appreciation in empirical aesthetics, such as research on pictorial balance. Finally, we argue that the fluency theory of aesthetic pleasure, which by itself is not relevant to art appreciation, can be amended to meet the requirements of the framework. By providing new foundations for empirical aesthetics, scientists can tackle fundamental questions about the nature and appreciation of art within the psycho-historical framework.
    Original languageEnglish
    Title of host publicationProceedings of the 22nd Biennial Congress of The International Association of Empirical Aesthetics (IAEA)
    Place of PublicationTaipei, Taiwan: National Taiwan Normal University
    PublisherInternational Association of Empirical Aesthetics
    Number of pages18
    Publication statusPublished - 2012
    EventBiennial Congress of the International Association of Empirical Aesthetics - Taipei, Taiwan, Province of China
    Duration: 22 Aug 201225 Aug 2012
    Conference number: 22nd


    ConferenceBiennial Congress of the International Association of Empirical Aesthetics
    Country/TerritoryTaiwan, Province of China


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