The Psychology of Art and the Evolution of the Conscious Brain

Traditional Ways of Understanding Art: Psychophysical Dualism

Traditionally, art scholars have approached the understanding of art from the position that art exists in the “real” world while the experience of art takes place inside the mind of the observer. That is, experienced art is subjective…a book on art appreciation confirms: “The artist produces a visual statement which in turn becomes the subject matter for a response or reaction from the observer” (Knobler 1967, p. 3). Other dualistic notions suggest that art satisfies a human need much as nourishment assuages hunger. “The human imagination requires food as imperiously as the human body, and art is the inexhaustible spring from which our imagination draws sustinance” (Encyclopedia Britannica, 1958, p. 442). The seperation between what is in the world of art and what is in your head, and how what is in your head influences what you get out of art, are expressed by Janson in his popular book on art history: “If we are going to get the most out of art, we will have to learn how to look and think for ourselves in an intelligent way” (Janson 1991)

While such an approach engages a time-honored philosophical position that seperates the physical universe from the mind, from what we now know about the way the brain processes sensory signals we can reasonably conclude that this represents an artificial division. (Solso 1933: pp19-21)

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