A Farewell to Art: Aesthetics as a Topic in Psychology and Neuroscience

Martin Skov*, Marcos Nadal

*Corresponding author for this work

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Empirical aesthetics and neuroaesthetics study two main issues: the valuation of sensory objects and art experience. These two issues are often treated as if they were intrinsically interrelated: Research on art experience focuses on how art elicits aesthetic pleasure, and research on valuation focuses on special categories of objects or emotional processes that determine the aesthetic experience. This entanglement hampers progress in empirical aesthetics and neuroaesthetics and limits their relevance to other domains of psychology and neuroscience. Substantial progress in these fields is possible only if research on aesthetics is disentangled from research on art. We define aesthetics as the study of how and why sensory stimuli acquire hedonic value. Under this definition, aesthetics becomes a fundamental topic for psychology and neuroscience because it links hedonics (the study of what hedonic valuation is in itself) and neuroeconomics (the study of how hedonic values are integrated into decision making and behavioral control). We also propose that this definition of aesthetics leads to concrete empirical questions, such as how perceptual information comes to engage value signals in the reward circuit or why different psychological and neurobiological factors elicit different appreciation events for identical sensory objects.
Original languageEnglish
JournalPerspectives on Psychological Science
Issue number3
Pages (from-to)630-642
Number of pages13
Publication statusPublished - May 2020

Bibliographical note

Published online: February 6, 2020.


  • Art
  • Aesthetics
  • Aesthetic experience
  • Sensory valuation
  • Empirical aesthetics
  • Neuroaesthetics

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