Wednesday, January 02, 2013

Body resonance and art appreciation.

Leder et al. have asked how hand movements reflected two styles of painting having similar content and historic period might interact with muscle movements in the viewer to influence their appreciation of the painting. Their introduction gives a bit of context for the work:
The question of how art creates aesthetic pleasure has puzzled researchers since the early days of psychology... In the visual arts, the common belief is that perceptual features, such as contrast or color, determine aesthetic pleasure; one mechanism underlying this perceptual path has been identified as processing efficiency... By contrast, since the late 19th century, the Empathists’ movement has claimed that a substantial source of aesthetic pleasure is empathy with the artwork... More precisely, Lee..argued that such empathy may result from episodes of sympathetic resonance of the perceiver’s own body with the artwork he or she is viewing. Currie...distinguished different kinds of resonance occurring through structures specifically responsible for motor processing, emotional responses, and even metaphorical word-action relations. Regarding motor simulations, Freedberg and Gallese..speculated that viewing artwork may activate neural movement programs associated with the way the artwork was produced ... Thus, one source of aesthetic empathy and thus aesthetic pleasure may stem from body resonances (of the perceiver’s body) with the movements that the artist made when producing the work.
They started with the view that perceiving a painting style elicits covert simulations of concordant hand movements in the viewer and that these stimulus-triggered simulations might be enhanced or interfered with by simultaneously performing hand movements that either resemble or do not resemble, respectively, the movements the artist made while creating the paintings... Making such movements might increase or decrease aesthetic appreciation, respectively, in the viewer...

Indeed, they found that when subjects were instructed to tap an eraser tip out of their view on the table top at their own pace (the motion used the stippling of pointillism), on viewing a series of pictures they preferred pointillist painting over stroke-style paintings. Instruction to move a pen out of view in strokes of about 20 cm from left to right on the table’s surface produced a preference for stroke-style paintings.

They showed that the movements were essential to the aesthetic episode of perceiving and evaluating the artwork by doing the control of have subjects perform matching or mismatching hand movements before viewing the artwork. This did not influence their art appreciation.

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