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Cognitive and Neuroscientific Approaches to the Arts (December 2018): Collections of Essays

By Travis Nygard and Lauren S. Weingarden

Collections of Essays

Although this essay has emphasized book-length treatments by single or multiple authors, much of the most important work in this field has been disseminated in articles published in scholarly journals, which is the norm for scientific practice. However, there are valuable collections of landmark journal articles and original essays by prominent researchers. Wide-ranging in content, ambitious collections of essays can be worthy resources. Among those focusing on the arts are Projective Processes and Neuroscience in Art and Design, edited by Rachel Zuanon; The Cognitive Neuroscience of Music, edited by Isabelle Peretz and Robert Zatorre, which is especially noteworthy for discussion of music as language and for studies of music involving MRI and PET scans; The Neurosciences and Music and The Neurosciences and Music II, both edited by Giuliano Avanzini et al., gatherings of conference proceedings; Beyond Aesthetics: Investigations into the Nature of Visual Art, edited by Don Brothwell, which comprises compelling work on evolutionary biology, art by nonhuman animals, children’s perception, and defective vision; and The Artful Mind: Cognitive Science and the Riddle of Human Creativity, edited by Mark Turner, which brings together work on evolution, emotion, thinking, meaning, and ambiguity. Also valuable is  Art and Perception: Towards a Visual Science of Art, edited by  Baingio Pinna, which offers many methodological insights—such as how to study implied motion, how natural stimuli of the senses can be coded, and how to statistically analyze fractal imagery. Also of note in Pinna’s collection is Christopher Tyler’s essay “Some Principles of Spatial Organization in Art,” which looks at perception of faces and placement of eyes in paintings.

Collections of writings on cognitive science are particularly useful for accessing the scientific research material published in specialized journals. Collections also gather essays by prominent researchers, making them available in a format that is more easily accessible to the nonspecialist. Neuroaesthetics, edited by neuroscientists Martin Skov and Oshin Vartanian, counts among the first of such collections dedicated to this particular field. This volume features essays by a wide range of authors (including some discussed in this bibliographic essay), who apply neuroscience to an equally wide range of aesthetic topics (literary reading, music, film) and of methodologies (bioaesthetics, evolutionary cognition, embodied aesthetic pleasure). Studies in the New Experimental Aesthetics: Steps toward an Objective Psychology of Aesthetic Appreciation, edited by psychologist/ philosopher D. E. Berlyne, a precursor of more recent works, offers empirical approaches to the arts. Aesthetics and Neuroscience: Scientific and Artistic Perspectives, edited by Zoï Kapoula and Marine Vernet, includes work on how aesthetics relates to atypical forms of perception, such as dyslexia and synesthesia; how facial expressions can cause aesthetic responses; how eye movements while looking at art can reveal the workings of the brain; and how artists have sometimes been inspired by neurology. Collections of work in neuroscience include The Fine Arts, Neurology, and Neuroscience: New Discoveries and Changing Landscapes, edited by Stanley Finger et al., which includes especially good work on creativity, evolution, and visual perception; Literature, Neurology, and Neuroscience: Historical and Literary Connections, edited by Stanley Finger, François Boller, and Anne Stiles, which emphasizes writers with cognitive disorders; Aesthetic Science: Connecting Minds, Brains, and Experience, edited by psychologists Arthur Shimamura and Stephen Palmer, which takes philosophical, psychological, and neuroscientific approaches to the arts; Picturing Science, Producing Art, edited by Caroline Jones and Peter Galison, which offers a theoretical approach to the merging of the arts and sciences, exploring styles, the body, visual cognition, subjectivity, and cultures of vision; and Cognitive Processes in the Perception of Art, edited by W. Ray Crozier and Antony Chapman, another useful overview, which includes sections on symbolism, cognitive development, perception, and experimentation

Works Cited