The Neuroaesthetics of Implied Motion in Visual Art

Lead Research Organisation: Bangor University
Department Name: Sch of Psychology


The emerging field of Neuroaesthetics aims to understand the biological bases of aesthetic experience using a multidisciplinary approach that spans psychology, neuroscience and empirical aesthetics (Chaterjee, 2009). Evidence suggests that interplay between brain regions associated with affective, sensory and semantic processing is responsible for aesthetic judgement (Chatterjee & Vartanian, 2014). To date, however, the relationship between the neural substrates involved in aesthetic judgement and implied motion in artworks has been modestly researched (Battaglia, Lisanby & Freedberg, 2011; Di Dio et al., 2016; Cattaneo et al., 2017; Kim & Blake, 2007; Osaka et al., 2010
This project aims to bring together insight from the history of art, which documents how aesthetic experience has been manipulated over centuries, with contemporary approaches from psychology and neuroscience. The current project proposes three new directions for research, which would take significant steps forward in understanding the aesthetic evaluation of motion. First, a greater focus needs to be placed on the role of prior experience and how it shapes aesthetic judgment, which has been limited to a few studies to date (Kirsch et al., 2016). For example, an art critic is likely to represent implied motion information differently to a relative novice. At the same time, comparing art experts to other "expert" observers of motion, such as athletes, would further probe the way motion experience in an art context shapes aesthetic experience. Second, the nature of cognitive processing in aesthetic appreciation, such as whether they are relatively automatic or controlled processes, would be valuable to study. To date, the extent to which aesthetic appreciation relies on an automatic and/or deliberate processing is unclear. Third, although distributed neural networks have been proposed to underpin aesthetic judgments (Chatterjee & Vartanian, 2014), no research to date has investigated functional connectivity between neural circuits during aesthetic appreciation. Given the prominent role of network models of brain function in recent years (Bullmore & Sporns, 2009), attempts to move Neuroaesthetics beyond models that rely solely on regional responses and reverse inference would be valuable. Indeed, such research would appreciate the inherent complexity of brain function in general.
Furthermore, by investigating the dynamics of neuroaesthetic experience, this project will provide valuable information that can advance our understanding of how aesthetic appreciation impacts contemporary social behaviour, for instance shaping new attitudes and values toward education, artistic style movements, or new trends in marketing.
This research will investigate the following research questions: 1. To what extent and in which ways does viewing art scenes depicting implied human body dynamics depend on artistic experience? 2. To what extent is aesthetic appreciation a result of automatic or controlled processes? 3. How do functionally distinct brain networks interact during the appreciation of motion in artworks?


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Studentship Projects

Project Reference Relationship Related To Start End Student Name
ES/P00069X/1 01/10/2017 30/09/2027
2123500 Studentship ES/P00069X/1 01/10/2018 30/09/2022 Ionela Bara