The Brain on Art
◑ Art and Science combine in the incipient field of Neuroaesthetics. In 1900, Alois Riegl argued that art is completed by the perceptual and emotional involvement of the viewer. This view aligned art history with psychology. It followed that a work of art is inherently ambiguous and each person who sees it has a different interpretation. Your brain is a creativity machine that obtains incomplete information from the outside world and completes it.
◓ Some of this creative process has a structural basis, driven by the way the brain develops. Thus, the ability to be aesthetically moved is universal and common brain areas are activated across all humans. Other areas light up differently, reflecting the wide variety of emotional states associated with viewing art.
◉ Assessing Aesthetics: In one experiment, Oxford University researchers recorded blood flow in the brain (by fMRI) of subjects who saw a series of Rembrandt paintings that were labeled authentic or copy. Actually, the paintings were mixed up so that some were labeled incorrectly. But the visual areas of the brain that lit up were the same, whether the painting was real or a good copy – not surprising, since the average person would not be expected to tell them apart. What was surprising was that the label of authenticity triggered areas associated with perceptions of reward, pleasure and monetary gain. The paintings thought to be inauthentic generated strong spikes in working memory, as the people were actively trying to detect the flaws in the presented image. Our aesthetic judgements are subject to a variety of different influences that may be inaccessible to direct introspection but are revealed by neuroimaging. Did you know that changing the price label on wine alters our taste perception? (http://goo.gl/fJ7E1)
◕ Image Source: http://www.cell.com/cell_picture_show-weaving