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Cognitive and Neuroscientific Approaches to the Arts (December 2018): Conclusion

By Travis Nygard and Lauren S. Weingarden


As this essay has shown, scholars have posed and answered a wide range of questions about cognitive science and the arts. The books discussed above testify to the acumen of researchers in the humanities who have delved into the territory of scientists, and vice versa. Much has been accomplished to date, but the research questions that have framed this work, along with the methodologies that have been used to answer those questions, have been limited in scope. Particularly troubling is the fact that there have been few robust and empirical collaborations between intellectuals in these divergent areas—even though scholars in both the humanities and sciences are interested in this field. Instead, the most scientifically robust work, especially in the area of neuroscience, has been done by scientists, drawing on a limited range of artistic examples. Similarly, humanities scholars who rely on scientific research may lack access to technical equipment, lab spaces, and specialists to review their work.

Looking to the future of this multidisciplinary field, the authors of this essay hope that intellectuals will build on existing work in ever more innovative, nuanced, critical, and self-reflective ways. Scholars are up to this challenge. But curiosity alone may not be a sufficiently strong force to overcome entrenched disciplinary norms and conventions. Work that does not sit within one and only one discipline—work that dances between traditional areas of knowledge—can be difficult to value, fund, evaluate, and disseminate. One can hope that new centers of research, funding opportunities, and publication venues will be established to foster innovation in the field—thus making this work ever more important as the connective tissue that links problematics together.