Monday, April 8, 2013


Conway BR, Rehding A (2013) Neuroaesthetics and the Trouble with Beauty. PLoS Biol 11(3): e1001504. doi:10.1371/journal.pbio.1001504

Note that here neuroaesthetics means visual art, paintings and drawings. The final paragraph (there is no abstract):
There may well be a “beauty instinct” implemented by dedicated neural machinery capable of producing a diversity of beauty reactions, much as there is language circuitry that can support a multitude of languages (and other operations). A need to experience beauty may be universal, but the manifestation of what constitutes beauty certainly is not. On the one hand, a neuroaesthetics that extrapolates from an analysis of a few great works, or one that generalizes from a single specific instance of beauty, runs the risk of missing the mark. On the other, a neuroaesthetics comprising entirely subjectivist accounts may lose sight of what is specific to encounters with art. Neuroaesthetics has a great deal to offer the scientific community and general public. Its progress in uncovering a beauty instinct, if it exists, may be accelerated if the field were to abandon a pursuit of beauty per se and focus instead on uncovering the relevant mechanisms of decision making and reward and the basis for subjective preferences, much as Fechner counseled. This would mark a return to a pursuit of the mechanisms underlying sensory knowledge: the original conception of aesthetics.

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