The Nature of Perception and Emotion in Aesthetic Appreciation: A Response to Makin’s Challenge to Empirical Aesthetics

Martin Skov*, Marcos Nadal

*Corresponding author for this work

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Alexis Makin argued in a recent paper that Empirical Aesthetics is unable to properly advance our understanding of the mechanisms involved in aesthetic experience. The reason for this predicament, he claims, is an inability of current research methods to capture the psychological properties that truly characterize aesthetic experience, especially the unique perceptual and emotional processes involved in the aesthetic experience. We show that Makin’s argument rests on assumptions that are at odds with scientific knowledge of the neurobiological mechanisms involved in the appreciation of sensory objects. We thereafter show that such mechanisms are rooted in shared neurobiological systems and operate according to computational principles that are common to many domains of experience. This casts doubt on the notion that aesthetic experiences constitute a distinct kind of experiences that can be defined according to a set of special and unique qualities. Finally, we discuss how attributing this specialness to “aesthetic” experiences leads Empirical Aesthetics astray from mainstream psychology and neuroscience.
Original languageEnglish
JournalPsychology of Aesthetics, Creativity, and the Arts
Issue number3
Pages (from-to)470-483
Number of pages14
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2021

Bibliographical note

Published online: September 12, 2019

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