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Cogn Process (2018) 19:201–213 https://doi.org/10.1007/s10339-017-0805-x RESEARCH REPORT Empathy, engagement, entrainment: the interaction dynamics of aesthetic experience Ingar Brinck Received: 27 June 2016 / Accepted: 27 March 2017 / Published online: 8 April 2017 The Author(s) 2017. This article is an open access publication Abstract A recent version of the view that aesthetic progressively structures and organizes visual experience by experience is based in empathy as inner imitation explains way of perceptual feedback from body movements made in aesthetic experience as the automatic simulation of actions, response to the artwork. The latter concerns the movement emotions, and bodily sensations depicted in an artwork by qualities and shapes of implicit and explicit bodily motor neurons in the brain. Criticizing the simulation responses to an artwork that cue emotion and thereby theory for committing to an erroneous concept of empathy modulate over-all affect and attitude. The two processes and failing to distinguish regular from aesthetic experi- cause the viewer to bodily and emotionally move with and ences of art, I advance an alternative, dynamic approach be moved by individual works of art, and consequently to and claim that aesthetic experience is enacted and skillful, recognize another psychological orientation than her own, based in the recognition of others’ experiences as distinct which explains how art can cause feelings of insight or awe from one’s own. In combining insights from mainly psy- and disclose aspects of life that are unfamiliar or novel to chology, phenomenology, and cognitive science, the the viewer. dynamic approach aims to explain the emergence of aes- thetic experience in terms of the reciprocal interaction Keywords Aesthetic experience Art Dynamic system between viewer and artwork. I argue that aesthetic expe- Emotion Empathy Engagement Inner imitation rience emerges by participatory sense-making and revolves Movement Neuroaesthetics Participatory sense-making around movement as a means for creating meaning. While Simulation entrainment merely plays a preparatory part in this, aes- thetic engagement constitutes the phenomenological side of coupling to an artwork and provides the context for Feeling with works of art: empathy and aesthetic exploration, and eventually for moving, seeing, and feeling experience with art. I submit that aesthetic experience emerges from bodily and emotional engagement with works of art via the Works of art tend to evoke strong experiences in the complementary processes of the perception–action and viewer. In engaging with a painting or sculpture you motion–emotion loops. The former involves the embodied sometimes can feel that you are sharing experiences with it: visual exploration of an artwork in physical space, and You have the sensation of feeling with it, of empathizing. At other times, engaging with work of other artists, you distinctly know you are not sharing any experiences, but Handling editor: Marta Olivetti Belardinelli (Sapienza University of the experiences you nevertheless undergo genuinely appear Rome); Reviewers: Joanna Ganczarek (Pedagogical University of to emanate from and belong to the artwork. How are such Cracow), Claus Lamm (University of Vienna). feelings of connectedness and estrangement with an art- & Ingar Brinck work possible? ingar.brinck@ﬁl.lu.se This issue may not be as strange as it may seem, because feeling with other people and feeling with works of art Department of philosophy and cognitive science, Lund have afﬁnities that suggest a common basis in empathy— University, Lund, Sweden 123 202 Cogn Process (2018) 19:201–213 the feeling of understanding others’ experiences and dynamics between viewer and artwork. I argue that viewer- thoughts from their perspective. Empathy directly presents artwork interaction can be modelled as participatory sense- you with another subjective perspective on the world than making, proposing that entrainment creates an implicit your own, which does not seem to originate within you, but common ground that constitutes the baseline for interaction. is encountered as a fait accompli. Furthermore, both aes- Drawing on research in developmental psychology on thetic experience and the experience of another person’s empathy, I submit that aesthetic experience emerges by subjective perspective have another qualitative proﬁle than bodily and emotional engagement with works of art via the everyday experience and can be strongly moving. Ignoring complementary processes of the perception–action and functional and pragmatic properties, they are characterized motion–emotion loops. These processes enable the viewer to by high arousal, sustained attention, and marked personal move with and be moved by art. engagement both cognitively and emotionally (Markovic 2012; Vessel et al. 2012). The feeling of understanding others’ subjective experi- The simulation theory of aesthetic experience: ences typically arise while interacting with them in the critical remarks second person. Taking the intuition that second-person and aesthetic experience share a common basis in empathy at The view that aesthetic experience involves empathy was face value, the present article examines the role of empathy developed by Robert Vischer (1873). According to Vis- for aesthetic experience from a theoretical, interdisci- cher, aesthetic experience consists in the genuine empathy plinary perspective that merges insights from psychology, towards pure form, evidenced by the involuntary inclina- philosophy, phenomenology, and neuroscience within the tion to feel static form move freely and the spontaneous dynamic framework. Claiming that aesthetic experience experience of a rhythmic continuity between self and depends on moving with and being moved by the artwork, artefact. Vischer stressed the importance of emotion and the aim is to explain aesthetic experience in terms of the imagination for understanding art and argued that aesthetic processes that cause it to unfold by presenting a series of experience results from Einfu ¨ hlung, the act of feeling into empirically well-grounded hypotheses about the relational the observed forms of works of art. The viewer places dynamics between viewer and artwork. herself at the centre of gravity of the artwork and thinks her Historically, following Immanuel Kant aesthetic experi- way into it. Then the imagination permits simulation of the ence has been interpreted as an intellectual feat, pleasing by initially vague contents of sensation as sensuous concrete its pure form. Marked by Kant’s distinction between disin- form. Forms cause affects in the viewer that paired with the terested judgements of taste and bodily judgements of sense, free association of ideas enable aesthetic appreciation. mainstream 19th and 20th century aesthetics ignored pre- Wolfﬂin (1886) explained the aesthetic experience of reﬂective, non-conceptual, emotional, and bodily responses architecture from a similar standpoint. Like Vischer, he to art. The strong focus on propositional and discursive held that empathy begins in bodily simulation and ends in processes left other processes largely unexplored. Today mental simulation through the projection of ﬁrst-person there is wide-spread interest in the functions of emotion, experiences into the physical forms of buildings and art. perception, and bodily sensation for aesthetic experience and Elements of Vischer’s theory recur in contemporary in empathy as its source (Crowther 1993; Dengerink Chaplin neuroaesthetics that investigates how aesthetic experience 2005;Freedberg 2012; Freedberg and Gallese 2007; depends on the ability to identify with forms in pictorial Haworth 1997;Scarinzi 2015; Shusterman 2000). Although content. In a study on dynamism perception, Massaro et al. reﬂection and verbal interpretation may play a signiﬁcant (2012) compare the processing of pictorial content part in aesthetic experience, they are not necessary. including human subjects with the processing of pictorial The view that aesthetic experience is based in empathy content including nature and show that dynamism plays a and occurs by the mental and bodily simulation of elements role in both cases. They explain dynamism perception depicted in the artwork recently has been resurrected in the concerning human content by reference to the bodily research on aesthetics in neurosciences. I will criticize both simulation of other agents’ actions, but cannot ﬁnd a the original version of the simulation theory and its con- plausible physiological explanation of it concerning nature temporary version in neuroaesthetics, and defend a dynamic content. Because proprioception is implied in the pro- approach to aesthetics that describes the perception of art cessing by parieto-premotor sensory-motor circuits that and aesthetic experience as embodied, embedded, and send feedback to the visual areas in the brain, they venture enacted in engagement with the artwork. I suggest that that embodiment may be relevant. The notion of embodi- aesthetic perception is explorative and involves intelligent ment entails functional and constitutive dependency on perceptual and motor skills, while explaining the emergence implicit sensorimotor processes and bodily experience of aesthetic experience by reference to the relational (Beer 2014; Clark 1997; Kirsh 1995; Varela et al. 1991; 123 Cogn Process (2018) 19:201–213 203 Wilson 2002). To elucidate how it might explain inanimate 2012; Scheler 1954; Zahavi 2008). We simply can see what dynamism perception, Massaro and colleagues quote they desire and need, fear and avoid, feel and intend. Wo ¨ lfﬂin (1886:151): Brieﬂy, empathy is based in the immediate recognition of another person’s experience as distinct from your own. Physical forms possess a character only because we Freedberg and Gallese (2007; see also Freedberg 2012) ourselves possess a body. If we were purely visual have advanced a version of Vischer’s theory that explains beings, we would always be denied an aesthetic aesthetic experience as the simulation of actions and emo- judgment of the physical world. But as human beings tions by mirror neurons in the brain. They argue that the with a body that teaches us the nature of gravity, observation of goal-directed action, artefacts via the actions contraction, strength, and so on, we gather the they afford, bodily and facial expression of emotion, real or experience that enables us to identify with the con- implied body movement, and traces of instrumental action ditions of other forms. (e.g. footsteps on the ground, pencil strokes on paper, or Pursuing the research of Massaro and colleagues, Di Dio chisel marks on a sculpture) activates roughly the same et al. (2016) conclude that in naı ¨ve subjects, human neurons in the observer’s brain as in the agent’s and results dynamic content causes motor resonance, while static in simulation of the corresponding motor action or emotion. nature content causes imaginary motor simulation that Hence, the simulation or mirror mechanism in the brain is reﬂects the functional potential of represented landscapes. responsible for aesthetic experience. In spite of its broad acceptance, Vischer’s theoretical To their advantage, Freedberg and Gallese can explain framework faces difﬁculties that can be traced to his notion the directness of experience, the brain’s responses being of empathy. Empathy is described as consisting in two automatic, and deny that empathy involves projection of consecutive processes: Mental states are ﬁrst simulated the observer’s own emotional reactions. However, like with the body and then mentally projected into the object. I Vischer they conceive of empathy as the sharing of expe- will clarify why this conception of empathy is problematic riences, which conﬂicts with the core function of empathy: by reference to the notions of simulation and projection. reciprocity. Additionally, it is questionable that activity in To begin, simulation entails mimicking the states or the mirror neurons is adequate for explaining qualitatively processes of the model, and successful simulation of felt aesthetic experience. another person’s experiences results in the literal sharing of Freedberg and Gallese claim that the observation of a her experiences. However, literal sharing stops short at movement (or action, facial expression, gaze, etc.) in an reproducing what the other person feels, which means it artwork will cause simulation of the movement, similarly ignores the gist of empathy. The function of empathy is the to how the observation of a real movement would cause simulation, and result in the experience of it. This raises the opposite, viz. to recognize another person’s experiences as his. Phenomenologically speaking, in empathy you are question why the resulting experience would amount to an confronted with the presence of a qualitative experience aesthetic as opposed to regular experience of movement that you are not living through yourself (Zahavi and Rochat and emotion. Apparently the two types of experience occur 2015). The awareness of the other person’s experience as by the same kind of operation. The obvious difference lies distinct from your own permits responding to it by recip- in their causal history, the one being caused by observation rocating, e.g. comforting a person who is experiencing of a real movement, the other by observation of a move- sadness, relieving her agony if she is experiencing pain, or ment in an artwork. However, there is no mention that the rejoicing with her if she is happy (Zahavi 2008). nature of the cause would inﬂuence the processing signif- Turning to projection, it involves the transfer of expe- icantly; rather, the point of the theory is to provide the riences from self to other by analogy, placing oneself same explanation in both cases. Accordingly, Freedberg’s instead of the other person at the centre of the process. This and Gallese’s hypothesis leaves it undetermined what procedure clearly conﬂicts with the reciprocal nature of makes an experience aesthetic. empathy. Instead the accurate perception of another per- To stress, denying that the simulation hypothesis pro- son’s experience requires recognizing its radical otherness. vides a satisfactory explanation of aesthetic experience is Interpreting others in terms of one’s own experiences and not to deny that mirror neurons are involved in the causal feelings complicates separating one’s own and others’ realization of responses to art. Motor, somatosensory, and reactions and furthermore reduces the usefulness of visceromotor processes are implicated in the visual pro- empathy in clinical contexts of medical practice and psy- cessing of works of art; the uncertainty concerns their exact chotherapy (Halpern 2001, 2003). Hence, projection is not function for speciﬁcally aesthetic experience. One of the necessary, nor desirable for empathy. We understand others central aims of art is to make the viewer experience directly and non-inferentially by perceptual acquaintance something unfamiliar or out of the ordinary. Sometimes with them as living bodies (Gallagher 2001, 2008; Krueger this amounts to presenting ﬁgurative or non-ﬁgurative 123 204 Cogn Process (2018) 19:201–213 counter images or disclosing unknown aspects of the world Phenomenologist Maurice Merleau-Ponty’s work on and in doing so produce feelings of insight, learning, sur- perception and art articulates a complementary outlook to prise, or awe. Like empathy, aesthetic experience depends enactivism. Focusing on its performative aspects, Merleau- on grasping the difference between one’s own experiences Ponty (1964) describes the perception of art in the ﬁrst and such that have their origin in others. Acknowledging person. In previous work (Brinck 2003, 2007) I have the radical otherness of those that originate in the artwork brought these theoretical perspectives together, and enables the psychological re-orientation that characterizes describe the production and consumption of art as con- aesthetic experience. trasting, yet interrelated dimensions of a multi-directional Let us take stock. I have argued that the notions of practice that constitutively depends on the material and simulation and projection lead in the wrong direction. cultural properties of the environment. Conceiving of aesthetic experience as a matter of motor Gibson’s (1986) notions of affordance and effectivity simulation of elements depicted in the artwork is mis- prove useful for explaining how artists and art lovers can guided, because the simulation mechanism does not dis- share their different experiences of art and participate in tinguish aesthetically relevant information (in terms of joint practices by living in the same environment (Brinck valence and potential action) from socially and instru- 2003). An affordance is a functional property of an object mentally relevant information. that exists relative to an agent and deﬁnes the sum of possible actions that involve the object. Affordances simultaneously constrain and enable behaviour. An effec- The nature of aesthetic perception: an acquired tivity is a functional property of an agent that deﬁnes the skill agent’s operative skills relative to the affordance of an object in a given context. Because objects engage attention Like everyday experience, aesthetic experience is enacted. through the functional properties that correspond to the Although it causally depends on the brain, it is not caused by agent’s effectivities, an agent’s effectivities will shape her and realized in the brain, but in the world by an embodied ways of interacting with the environment, granting her agent (Noe ¨ 2004:227; cf. Smith 2005). Aesthetic experience access to a limited set of affordances. arises in the active probing of a certain kind of material In making art, the aesthetic quality of the interaction artefact in physical space, viz. the work of art. emerges from the particular effectivities that allow the Perception is adaptive: It has evolved to keep the organism artist to access affordances that correspond to her personal in harmony with its niche and sustain its existence (Gibson style (Brinck 2007). Her operative skills will determine 1986). It also is explorative: Responding to changes in the which information she will pick up when and how. Artists acquire their individual style, a certain manner of engaging environment demands exploring new ways to exploit it (McGann, De Jaegher and Di Paolo 2013). The interdepen- with the context via sensorimotor processing, through the dence between adaptive and explorative behaviour explains repeated physical activity of producing art (Merleau-Ponty why, when ‘‘nature’’ is transformed into art, reality sometimes 1964). The painter Edouard Pignon (1966) describes how appears more transparent than ever to the great satisfaction of an artist’s bodily experience of space and time conditions both artist and viewer. Exploration improves transparency. the forms and colours of her work. He maintains that artists The skillful perception of artworks manifests a kno- develop aesthetic perception by gradually reﬁning their whow that develops over time and gradually increases the technique, and that learning to perceive and act in a dis- depth and complexity of aesthetic experience. The viewer tinctive way takes years of practice. I suggest that, con- learns how to see and act, what to attend to and how versely, viewers can learn to recognize a particular artist’s (Gibson 1986; Ingold 2001). Exploring works of art draws style by familiarizing with the artist’s ways of handling the on similar implicit and attention-guided learning and non- many aspects of common space—physical, temporal, representational (meta)cognitive abilities as other types of material, social, cultural, and historical—by interacting skillful bodily action, e.g. modern dance or ﬁgure skating with the artist’s work (Brinck 2003, 2007). Repeated (Brinck 1999). It is monitored and controlled indepen- encounters with art will cause viewers to develop skills for dently of reﬂection, and its progress is continuously eval- perceiving art that progressively changes the quality of uated, not necessarily relative to a goal (exploration may be their aesthetic experiences. its own goal) but by its moment–moment quality, organi- Learning takes place within socially and culturally cir- zation, variation, and deviation (Brinck and Liljenfors cumscribed activities and involves the transfer of skills and 2013). These processes form part of the over-all behaviour traditions by artefacts, procedures, rituals, and narratives and can be phenomenologically and perceptually trans- (Brown et al. 1989; Lave 1988). Knowledge is distributed, parent, available to the agent on the personal level (Mon- extended in space and time and continuous with processes tero 2010; Toner, Montero and Moran 2015). in the environment (Hutchins 1995). Because external 123 Cogn Process (2018) 19:201–213 205 resources such as the technologies and commodities that feelings through their spatial, material, and physical prop- support cognition change over time, processes of the same erties such as direction, shape, quantity, location, relative type, say, memorizing something, differ radically depend- size, grain, reﬁnement, delicacy, and density. Embodied ing on the place and time when they occur—some engagement with an artwork prepares for a phenomeno- 10,000 years ago, in the last century, or today (Donald logically richer understanding than the detached, observa- 1991). This holds true for perceiving objects of art too. tional perspective that informs the viewer about mainly her Discussing how ship navigators use divider and scale to own reactions to the artwork. ﬁnd the way, Hutchins (2010:433) asserts that what is seen The next section introduces the dynamic approach to is other than merely what is visible; it is ‘‘there by virtue of aesthetic experience, which in subsequent sections will the activity of seeing being conducted in a particular way’’. provide the tools for explaining the emergence of aesthetic Thus, the practices of reading the span of the scale as speed experience. or distance see something different in the very same visual array. Similarly, because aesthetic experience is enacted, or acted out, what viewers experience in engaging with works The dynamic approach to aesthetic experience: of art is determined by what they do, know how to do, and making sense of art are ready to do (cf. Noe 2004:1f). Perceptual skills such as the ability to enact relationships among independent items According to dynamic systems theory, agents interact with and recognize patterns that go unnoticed or have to be the physical environment by coupling to it, which entails calculated by less experienced subjects (Kellman and that agent and environment mutually and continuously Garrigan 2009) go hand in hand with contextualized sen- inﬂuence each other (Varela et al. 1991). Variations in sorimotor skills such as knowing how to practically engage agent and environment form patterns that improve the with a certain artefact (cf. McGann et al. 2013). conditions for the interaction and serve to maintain it (Beer Perceptual and sensorimotor skills play a decisive role 2000; Thelen and Smith 1994). Cognition is set to preserve for the quality of aesthetic experience and support direct, the autonomy and continued existence of dynamic systems on-line understanding of artworks, much like they support by neutralizing external and internal perturbations. On the social understanding and empathy. By way of example, dynamic approach, cognition is a relational, historical consider the many physical traces that an artist’s move- process: What matters is not which internal states agents ments and actions leave in the artwork and that witness the have, but what agents do (De Jaegher and Di Paolo 2007; craft of making it. Observing them, the novice may be able Thompson and Stapleton 2009). to stepwise re-construct the creative process from a third- Enactivism presents a complementary account of cog- person perspective and gain some insight into it. In con- nition in terms of how sense-making regulates the inter- trast, the skilled viewer knows what kind of information to action of coupled systems (De Jaegher and Di Paolo 2007; look for and how to act when detecting it. She can con- Froese and Di Paolo 2011; cf. Varela, Thompson and struct the causal sequence from an involved second-person Rosch 1991). By coordinating with stimuli that have sub- perspective and re-enact the artist’s bodily movements and jective value, agents can perceive and act on valences, gestures with some precision, gaining access to the artist’s subjective positive-to-negative evaluations of experiences, way of seeing that gives the artist’s motor actions their in the environment. Choosing the stimuli to which it will be personal signature (Brinck 2007). Merleau-Ponty eluci- sensitive permits the agent to enact a meaningful world that dates the present line of thought from the perspective of ensures its continued existence, and transforms the objec- phenomenology. He writes: ‘‘I can meet in things the tive world into a place of salience and value that reﬂects actions of another and ﬁnd in these actions a sense, because the needs of the individual (Thompson and Stapleton they are themes of possible activity for my own body’’ and 2009). ‘‘[I] ﬁnd others at the point of origin of the actions [I] im- Importantly, in the dynamic framework, social under- itate’’ (Lawlor and Toadvine 2007:146). standing and empathy are based in coordination, i.e. pat- To return to the discussion of brain simulation in the terned behaviour organized with respect to timing, rhythm, previous section, paying attention to the physical properties and (de)synchronization (Di Paolo et al. 2010). Under- of works of art while enacting them promotes aesthetic standing does not include de-coding or retrieval of repre- experience in additional ways to those acknowledged by sentations, nor the matching or projection of emotional, neuroaesthetics. The carvings and marks in the stone of a perceptual, or intentional inner experiences (Hutto 2015). sculpture by chisel and hammer and the strokes of the There is nothing ‘‘there’’ in the individual that waits to be brush and knife against the canvas of a painting give shared. Experience and meaning do not as such exist before insights into the dynamics of the creative process and the interaction takes place, but are transitory phenomena reveal the artist’s web of intentions, sensations, and that emerge in the process of sense-making. 123 206 Cogn Process (2018) 19:201–213 Admittedly, focusing on the coordination patterns that intentional activity (De Jaegher and Di Paolo 2007). One organize the relational dynamics of coupled systems has might object that because participatory sense-making is limitations, because it ignores exogenous inﬂuences. It will intentional, it is inadequate for explaining aesthetic expe- explain how agents make sense of the world they inhabit by rience, which involves interaction with an artefact. This identifying the parameters that control their behaviour point makes it a central task to examine, ﬁrst, on what without considering the environmental effects. Most con- grounds movement can be ascribed to artefacts that are textual properties of signiﬁcance for cognition have been artworks, and second, what kinds of movement would tuned to human agents by biological evolution and in a enable the viewer to feel with the artwork and cause the shorter historical perspective epistemic niche construction, emergence of aesthetic experience. The second task con- and systematically inﬂuence perception and action (Barker cerns movements of both viewer and artwork, and such that 1968; Brinck 2009; Donald 1991; Heft 2007). Sense- by regulating the dynamics are conducive to aesthetic making is embedded: functionally and constitutively experience. dependent on temporal, material, technical, social, and Regarding the ﬁrst issue, there is evidence that artworks cultural aspects of the environment. Haugeland (1998) can control viewers’ perception and shape their emotional describes the embeddedness of embodied agency in Hei- response, and in that sense may be held to manifest deggerian terms as the intimacy of the mind’s being in the intentional activity. Eye-tracking studies of how people world, characterized by an integralness of mind, body, and look at artworks show that artworks act on viewers’ per- world that undermines their very distinctness. ception systematically and that viewers respond differen- Aesthetic experience is scaffolded by technology and tially. The studies reveal common patterns based in material culture and socio-culturally by rituals, habits, principles such as contrast, regularity, and saliency that norms, and scripts. While large societies often show great drive the attention to particular areas, suggesting that gaze diversity in the expression of art, the artworks nevertheless is guided by the artwork, but also reveal large variability are fundamentally interrelated, because they are grounded depending on subjects’ interest, artistic appreciation, pre- in the same material culture (Malafouris 2013). The inte- vious experience, and knowledge, which means that the gralness of mind, body, and world permit understanding effect of the artwork is not mandatory or predetermined how art can work its wonders. What individual agents can (Quiroga and Pedreira 2011). For instance, experimental do and how they interact depend on what material, tech- manipulations of paintings by Piet Mondrian concerning nological, and symbolic resources are available to them, the orientation, proportional relations, and colours of the and if and how they can access these resources (Brinck components have been shown to with certain regularity 2003). Given that artist and viewer are contemporary and steer the attention to other areas than the original paintings do (ibid; Locher et al. 2005), whereas a series of studies of take part in the same material culture, the interdependence between cognition and environment causes the artist to how the eyes actively explore a painting by Francis Bacon create art and the viewer to make sense of it in ways that demonstrated signiﬁcant difference between art-trained and intrinsically connect. nonart-trained participants, e.g. art-trained observers ﬁx- To repeat, as opposed to theories that explain cognition ated regions important for spatial construction while non- by the properties of the agents, the dynamic approach art-trained observers ignored them (Kapoula and Lestocart explains cognition in terms of the relational dynamics 2006). between the agents. The emphasis on relational instead of Paintings also inﬂuence viewers’ emotions in pre- agent properties makes it possible to model agent-artefact dictable ways. Melcher and Bacci (2013) found that there interaction on agent-agent interaction. In the present con- is a strong bottom-up and objective aspect to perception of text, doing so will have the advantage of representing the emotion in abstract artworks that may tap into basic visual causal inﬂuence between viewer and artwork as bi-direc- mechanisms, in that features such as colour, line, form, and tional, and avoids downgrading the contribution of the composition reliably prime a certain emotion. van Paass- artwork or exaggerating the viewer’s efforts as a mere chen et al. (2015) report that affective evaluations of art in effect of the explanatory framework. To the same end, I terms of valence and arousal were consistent among suggest conceiving of aesthetic experience as the result of observers in ratings for representational and abstract art- participatory sense-making that generates signiﬁcance by works, while judgments about beauty and wanting differ joint interaction (De Jaegher and Di Paolo 2007). This will between experts and novices. This agrees with Silvia’s reveal features of the interaction that unidirectional (2013) ﬁndings that knowledge emotions such as confusion frameworks do not capture such as reciprocity. and interest that are appraisals of high novelty and degree Participatory sense-making is unavailable to single of comprehensibility have different weights for experts and agents and cannot be reduced to patterned behaviour. novices. To stress, these results should not be taken to Crucially, it involves movement as the manifestation of buttress the view that there are aesthetic primitives that 123 Cogn Process (2018) 19:201–213 207 determine the aesthetic value of a stimulus. Aesthetic coordination between biological systems typically is rela- preferences and judgments depend on a wide range of tive by phase attraction, moving into and out of the zone factors that may not be the same across contexts, similarly that surrounds perfect synchrony. The heartbeat, blood to interpersonal preferences and judgments. circulation, and respiration are naturally occurring The cited evidence shows that artworks exert signiﬁcant rhythms. inﬂuence on viewers, and that viewers’ reactions differ Social entrainment between individuals is a special case systematically. Does it grant ascribing movement to works of spatiotemporal dynamic coordination. It usually is of art? Movement is a self-sustained process from one implicit, subconscious, and automatic and causes mutually position to another that has a forward direction towards constraining, stabilizing behaviour by alignment and something or somebody, and can fail or succeed. It creates matching, e.g. motor mimicry when a speaker assumes the difference by making new facets of the environment same accent or tone of voice as another speaker during available to the agent that promise to meet her needs. Thus conversation, movement coordination when two persons movement has meaning or subjective value because the fall into the same pace while walking side by side or difference it creates, makes a difference to the agent as an spontaneously make a certain gesture at the same time, and individual, be it positive or negative, minor or major. That mirroring when people adopt one another’s body posture artworks sometimes make a difference by revealing and orientation (Knoblich et al. 2011; Schmidt and unknown aspects of human life or existence to the audience Richardson 2008). should be uncontroversial. Art is known to change the ways Because entrainment comes naturally and the inclination in which people perceive or feel. Consequently, it would to entrain is strong and requires effort to control, people seem part of the way art operates to inﬂuence or act on can be expected to synchronize to the rhythm of any viewers’ perception, behaviour, and understanding, which stimulus, animate or not. Visitors to galleries and museums means that artworks may be directed in the sense of tar- are likely to automatically entrain to the rhythm of any geting the viewer’s cognition and mind. artwork that attracts the attention and match body or head In all, the discussion suggests that artworks can exhibit orientation, posture, core affect, gaze, and/or state of movement and generally have the capacity to move and arousal to it. produce movement in viewers, even if this may not be true Rhythm is a well-known design principle in the visual in every single case. I conclude that we are licensed to arts of all times (Sayre 2015). In two-dimensional images explain aesthetic experience by the participatory sense- such as regular paintings, lithographs, and drawings, making of viewer and artwork. It remains to deal with the rhythm is created by the recurrence of lines, dots, shapes, second task, and determine what movements regulate the colour patches, strokes of the brush or pen or knife, and of interaction dynamics and enable feeling with the artwork. ﬁgurative motives, e.g. a ﬁsh repeated at different positions This issue will be examined in ‘‘Moving together: the or alongside with slight modiﬁcations, or children who means for participatory sense-making’’ and ‘‘Bodily perform the same action, say, running. The recurring jux- engagement: the perception-action loop’’ sections. The taposition of contrastive non-ﬁgurative elements also cre- next section concerns entrainment where all interaction ates rhythm. To illustrate, Jackson Pollock made paint drip begins. from a can onto canvases placed on the ﬂoor or against the wall and then used knives, trowels, and sticks to add depth to the images. This resulted in paintings that lack clear Entrainment: the baseline emphases and exhibit random rhythm. In contrast, Agnes Martin’s signature paintings of pale grids and horizontal Entrainment is the ubiquitous tendency of physical and bars or bands outlined in subtle pencil lines exhibit regular biological systems to coordinate to autonomous, spatially rhythm. So does Bridget Riley’s ‘‘optical’’ paintings that or temporally structured events or rhythmic movements, juxtapose contrastive colours arranged by serialized vari- and involves the detection of and response to rhythm and ations in size, shape, or placement in an all-over pattern. the integration of the systems by synchronization (Clayton The fact that entrainment is pervasive and mandatory et al. 2004; Glass 2001; Phillips-Silver et al. 2010; Wilson makes it compelling to ascribe it an important role. For and Wilson 2005). Rhythm consists in the patterned instance, it is known to cause stability, reliability, and recurrence of a regular or irregular element, e.g. a beat, predictability, and promote cooperation and feelings of form, sound, or movement, in a temporal or spatial familiarity and afﬁliation. On the other hand, this role will sequence. Repetition constitutes rhythm if it involves not be speciﬁc to aesthetic experience: Entrainment is variations. There is great dissimilarity in the periodicity, involved in any kind of interaction, and therefore its timing, intensity, frequency, regularity, amplitude, and explanatory value is comparatively small in the present predictability of processes of entrainment. The case. Louwerse et al. (2012) remark that ‘‘pervasive 123 208 Cogn Process (2018) 19:201–213 synchrony is cognitively cheap but potentially useful experiences in her that constitute other ways of responding across contexts and functions.’’ They suggest that entrain- to it than her own and thereby re-orient her. Swedish artist ment is multifunctional and trades off during activities or Lena Cronqvist’s two paintings of a young girl standing up processes of high complexity. What use might it have in and holding a doll in her left hand demonstrate how a the present context? Is there a trade-off? superﬁcially straight-forward naturalistic rendering of an I submit that by organizing and stabilizing the interac- everyday situation can move the viewer into an unsettling tion of coupled systems, entrainment creates an implicit state of mind foreign to the normality of the situation (Lilla common ground that reduces uncertainty and provides the ﬂicka i ro ¨ da skor med docka and Flicka med hand fo ¨r baseline for intentional explorative behaviour. On the munnen och docka, both 1997; Castenfors and Fogelstrom present view, entrainment prepares for open-ended forms 2014). A slight twisting of the representational conventions of interaction such as engagement that are available to of naturalistic art such as perspective, shape, and colour conscious awareness but not necessarily cast in words. and the conventional expectations about material daily life, e.g. the appearance of dolls, will cause experiences in the viewer that reﬂect another psychological orientation than Moving together: the means for participatory her own. sense-making Bodily moving occurs in participant perception and the co-enactment of behaviour, e.g. spoon-feeding when the Aesthetic engagement constitutes the phenomenological father opens his mouth while approaching the spoon to the side of coupling to an artwork and provides the context for baby’s face in anticipation of the baby’s opening its mouth, moving, seeing, and feeling with art: It is where action, and the baby then joins into the father’s action. The qual- perception, and lived experience meet. Drawing on the itative experience of seeing and feeling another agent’s fundamental similarity between aesthetic and second-per- movements moves the observer to match her own body son engagement, I suggest that research about the origin of movements to those of the other agent, which results in the empathy in dyadic interaction provides reason for giving observer’s being bodily moved through somebody else. movement a central place in the account of aesthetic Sometimes bodily moving together implies sharing the experience. goal and, if successfully, reaching it together, as in the According to developmental psychologist Peter Hobson, spoon-feeding example. Hence, an agent can participate in interpersonal engagement is characterized by jointness, a another agent’s attitudes and intentions by being (bodily) notion that echoes our deﬁnition of empathy as the moved to move with her. The matching movement does not immediate recognition of another person’s experience as have to be an exact replica of the original: What matters is the mutually manifest, multimodal coordination of bodily distinct from your own. Hobson (2005:201) maintains that jointness ‘‘comes with being moved just enough to sense orientation, intention, emotion, and attention that enables the psychological orientation of the other in oneself, but as empathy and cognitive and affective perspective-taking. the other’s.’’ Consider the infant’s experience of fear in I maintain that similarly to how joint movement allows response to the visual cliff. The visual cliff was designed to parent and infant to recognize each other’s experiences and test depth perception, and consists of a sheet of Plexiglas attitudes in dyadic engagement, it allows viewers to that covers a cloth with a high-contrast draughtboard pat- empathize with artworks in episodes of aesthetic engage- tern (Gibson and Walk 1960). On one side the cloth is ment: Movement constitutes the source of aesthetic expe- placed immediately beneath the Plexiglas, on the other it is rience. This line of thought receives support from art dropped 4 feet below. The cliff is merely visual since the educators, who tend to expose the inadequacy of discursive Plexiglas supports the infant’s weight. Hobson (2005) knowledge. They stress the importance of embodied asserts that the infant’s experience of the visual cliff will learning to get in proper contact with art and develop an change, if the infant can be made to respond to the care- understanding that in a tangible way involves the viewer. giver’s feelings instead of its own. By enacting the care- Hubard (2007) provides several examples of embodied giver’s feelings, the infant will be moved to occupy another learning that each promotes active engagement as a manner stance in relation to the world without physically changing of gaining a deeper understanding: replicating a form or places and eventually crawl across the cliff. The experience content by impersonation; making sounds in response to of emotionally moving through somebody else makes for visual stimuli; drawing the details of a sculpture, e.g. the understanding that the world can be experienced in dif- lines of a hand; transforming paper, e.g. looking at a ferent ways and conversely, meaning can be known mandala and tearing, folding and forming the paper in together. correspondence to its features. Hubard’s examples link By analogy, I claim that works of art can change the learning and experience to movement and intention, viewer’s perspective on the world by causing emotions and motion and emotion, and elucidate that bodily engagement 123 Cogn Process (2018) 19:201–213 209 with an artwork supports empathy and can lead to per- agent can participate in others’ attitudes and intentions by ceiving, acting, and feeling with it. simply following them, being (bodily) moved to move with The remaining sections examine the relational dynamics them, or by actively seeking to sense their orientation, between viewer and artwork from the two perspectives of (bodily) moving to move with them. The viewer makes bodily and emotional engagement. The common denomi- sense of her actions in subjective or lived physical space nator is movement, which reﬂects the view that ‘‘[M]ove- comparing actual with anticipated outcome and as she ments are at the centre of mental activity: a sense-making discovers new routes through objective physical space. agent’s movements—which include utterances—are the Looking up close reveals detail while looking from the tools of her cognition’’ (De Jaegher and Di Paolo 2007). far end of the room lets you take in the entire artwork at a single moment, feeling its full force. Changing positions discloses new aspects of it, leading to further changes of Bodily engagement: the perception–action loop position, and so on. Because perception is a function of movement and position in space and time, walking around In a case study of dialogic looking in a gallery setting, McKay or, on a smaller scale, moving in and out of postures and and Monteverde (2003) argue that aesthetic experience alternating body orientation will modify the viewer’s per- requires that subject and object are integral parts of each other ception of the artwork substantially. Small variations in and ends in both being transformed. The image of two equal body position and movement can have signiﬁcant effects players who mutually constitute or deﬁne each other is on the perception of colour, size, height, width, texture, or attractive and recalls the characterization of structurally cou- grain. Thus, surfaces, illumination, and shadows determine pled systems as mutually specifying each other. McKay and how things look with respect to colour. Moving continu- Monteverde conclude that engaging in an active and super- ously changes the light conditions of visual experience and vised dialogue with the artwork leads to a unique and uniﬁed thereby also how the colour of a given object looks to the perspective. Unfortunately, because they focus on the verbal agent. As you move relative to an object you are observing, aspects of dialogue—externally with other viewers and art you encounter its visual potential by a series of aspects. educators, internally with the self, they by-pass the bodily, Each of the agent’s movements and actions enact her experiential, and emotional aspects of understanding. experience of the artwork at the time of its performance. Generally, we make sense of the world by physically Visual experience presents the world along two dimen- moving around in it and discovering affordances for action sions: egocentred route maps from the perceiver’s vantage and attune to variations in the environment by modifying point and allocentred survey maps from a disembodied and calibrating our perceptual expectations and motor position accessed inferentially (Morganti 2016). Morganti (2016:111) describes wayﬁnding as ‘‘a complex and con- actions. Because agency structures perception, locomotion in physical space will organize the perception of the tinuously changing balance between the information environment in ways that correspond to current needs and available both in route and survey perspective’’. In Mor- afford novel actions (Yamamoto 2012). Those actions will ganti’s view, the agent’s surrounding space consists of the cause other variations and eventually result in further affordances that at present are available to her, and how speciﬁcations. In short, action speciﬁes perception and things look to her is constrained by sensorimotor skill that perception speciﬁes action. reﬂects learning. Morganti’s research in spatial cognition By the same token, visitors engage with artworks in the suggests that the experience of a given artwork, say, one of exhibition room by moving around, circling the artwork, the paintings from Claude Monet’s series of water lilies, looking at it from a distance or close up, from below or the will vary between agents and also within one and the same left or right, sitting down on the bench in the middle of the agent with respect to time. room or taking tours focusing on several items at a time To summarize the discussion so far, in addition to and alternating gaze between them. Eventually they end up learning history, a viewer’s aesthetic experience will with a dynamic map of the exhibition tuned to their depend on how she is moving through the exhibition space, interests and needs. the movements she makes while doing so, and what parts Speciﬁcally, perceptual feedback from body movements of material space she cares to integrate into her spatial map made in response to the visual experience of an artwork along the way. will cause the viewer’s behaviour to change and so results The more invitations to interact from artworks that a in other visual experience, etc. This progressive dynamics viewer responds to and the more ways of responding she constitutes the perception–action loop (PAL) of bodily masters, the more she will learn about her real possibilities engagement. It allows viewers to visually explore artworks to explore art visually and her ability to control the process. by letting the artefact guide their movements through Perception partly is a socio-cultural skill, and so is motion. physical space, in agreement with the observation that an Aiming to explain how high-level cognitive processes arise 123 210 Cogn Process (2018) 19:201–213 from low-level perceptual and motor abilities, Hutchins dynamic movement, a qualitatively felt kinetic ﬂow that (2010) argues that in culturally constructed settings, bodily may be experienced as expansive, abrupt, weakened, jag- motion can acquire meaning by virtue of its relation to the ged, curved, constricted, fast, etc. (Sheets-Johnstone 2010). spatial organization of things that has developed in the past Kinetic ﬂow is interrelated with affect. Exploring how her to scaffold behaviour. In our times, viewers often learn to experience in dance inﬂuences her educational research, interact with art by moving through exhibitions spaces. Stinson (1995:44) addresses the intersubjectivity of kines- That physical context modulates the relation between thetic sense, claiming that it aesthetic experience and viewing behaviour is attested by (…) heightens our awareness both of the other who is Brieber et al. (2014) who examined free viewing of an art outside us and of what is inside ourselves. It allows us exhibition in the context of either the museum or labora- to notice what we are feeling in our own interior, tory. The study reveals that participants in the museum letting us know when we are stiff or fatigued or context liked the artworks more, found them more inter- upside down, whether our ﬁngers are stretched apart esting, and viewed them longer. or close together. The kinesthetic sense thus both tells The exhibition space is a result of design, created with a us about ourselves and connects us with others as certain purpose. Such designated areas of the shared envi- embodied selves. ronment come with a set of functional properties that afford speciﬁc activities (Gibson 1986). Barker’s (1968)notion of Sheets-Johnstone (1999) argues that the function of behaviour setting refers to a cohesive set of standing patterns emotion is to motivate action. Changes in body posture of behaviour that together with their physical surroundings manifest the onset of emotion that determines the agent’s provide the spatial and temporal boundaries of an activity. readiness to act, and exemplify the respect in which agents Behaviour settings regulate and facilitate the performance of are ‘‘moved to move’’ (Fuchs and Koch 2014). The causal social activities, promoting their continued existence. To inﬂuence between emotion and action goes in both illustrate, an art gallery has walls, doors and windows, and directions; motion (the process of moving) and emotion within there are physical boundaries that divide the space intrinsically connect (Sheets-Johnstone 1999). Hence body into sections, e.g. passages where visitors can rest their posture may have a global impact and trigger emotion. senses, areas where they ﬁnd information about the exhibi- Furthermore, what may seem like minor behaviour can tion and the featured artists, larger spaces where the art- have major consequences, e.g. orientation movements works are located, spots (vantage points) designated for performed relative to a target of action will affect the observation of the individual pieces, an area close to the agent’s emotional reactions to the target and thereby action front door where visitors can compose their thoughts and readiness. Orientation movements demonstrate that agents make themselves ready to leave, etc. can be ‘‘moved by movement’’ (Fuchs and Koch 2014). The design of exhibition spaces encourages visitors to From a theoretical position, Fuchs and Koch (2014) engage with the artworks, but provides limited assistance for argue that emotion results from the circular interaction sense-making—how much support visitors get is in the between affective qualities in the environment and the hands of the management and the curator. The artist’s part in agent’s sensations and movements and that the body this seems peripheral. Hautala (2015) strengthens this charges both self-experience and environment with valen- impression in describing how an artist takes breaks to walk ces. Speciﬁcally, body feedback promotes the experience around and view her artworks while hooking them in a of emotion, formation of attitudes, and emotion and museum, following the same routes that she expects the behaviour regulation. Koch (2014) examined the effects of visitors will take, hanging the pieces accordingly. The dynamic body feedback from position and movement on option to move the walls or change routes is not mentioned. affect and attitude, relating movement rhythm (changes in Separating the artist’s goal of achieving the artwork from the muscle tension and properties related to space, weight, and curator’s goal of placing it in an appropriate historical and time) associated with smooth versus sharp reversals to theoretical context that respects tradition and praxis, Hautala movement shape (changes in the form or direction) in the claims that artworks ﬁnd their ﬁnal form by being assigned a form of approach versus avoidance motor behaviour. location in the museum space, an address as it were. Movement rhythms were shown to inﬂuence affect and attitude and modulate the inﬂuence of movement shape on attitudes, e.g. smooth rhythms and approach movements Emotional engagement: the motion–emotion loop cause more positive attitudes. The attested interdependence and continuity between Proprioception refers to the sense of movement and posi- motion and emotion corroborate that aesthetic experience tion that includes tactility, gravitational orientation, force, originate in perceived (in the artwork) or executed (with and kinesthesis. Kinesthesis refers to the awareness of respect to the artwork) movement. This means that the 123 Cogn Process (2018) 19:201–213 211 viewer’s psychological reaction to an artwork depends on both bodily and mentally. In playing with the experience of the movements that the artwork produces in her while she is space, the paintings throw the viewer off balance, Klein’s looking at it. Bodily responses to works of art have move- by producing the illusion of free ﬂoating and Fontana’s ment qualities and shapes and cause changes in body posture because the cuts cause the perception of depth and dyna- that cue emotion. Emotion triggers approach or avoidance mism, creating the illusion of reality where there is none. behaviour and determine the manner and direction in which the interaction between viewer and artwork proceeds. Hence, body feedback from movements made in response to Concluding remarks works of art triggers an emotional response that modulates affect and attitude, which is to say that the viewer is emo- I have argued that non-discursive aesthetic experience tionally moving with the artwork. The qualitative feel of emerges when the viewer engages with the artwork in movement makes the interaction intrinsically meaningful. physical and material space via the processes of bodily and Equally, the viewer’s psychological reaction may depend on emotional engagement. These processes permit the viewer the emotion that the artwork causes her to act out, as in the to move with, be moved by, or move to be moved by the visual cliff. This makes the agent react to the displayed artwork, all of which promote perceiving, acting, and content by the induced experience. feeling with the artwork as in empathy and perspective- I will refer to this dynamics as the progressive motion– taking between human agents. Perception, action, move- emotion loop (MEL) of emotional engagement. Being moved ment, emotion, motion, and affect are inseparable elements (emotionally) to movement or action and moving or acting to of the relational dynamics. be moved (emotionally) by a work of art both involve I have described the interaction by two processes oper- moving with the artwork, sensing its psychological orien- ating at different temporal and spatial scales, arguing that tation in oneself (cf. Hobson 2005). the perception–action loop organizes and structures visual Two works of art that exert strong effects on the viewer experience by specifying it, while the emotion-motion loop and have the quality to move people will illustrate the generates qualitatively felt embodied meanings that mod- present line of thought. To begin, consider Yves Klein’s ulate over-all affect and attitude. The distinction reﬂects paintings in monochrome blue, or the Blue Monochromes, the explanatory purpose of exposing the two basic the ﬁrst one made in 1957. They were painted with a roller dimensions or functions of aesthetic engagement. In prac- in a pure blue pigment IKB International Klein Blue, the tice the processing of aesthetic experience is not layered, surface without any personal touch or marks. Then they but there is interaction not only within processes, but also were mounted in front of the wall, not on it, leaving them between processes that succeed each other in time (hori- untouched by the forces of physical space. The intensity of zontally) and occur simultaneously (vertically). the blue colour draws the viewer into the canvas and is Aesthetic experience is based in the bodily experience of intended to make her transcend the material painting and motion and direction and has an inevitable affective and feel totally immersed in hue, not allowing her to ﬁnd a ﬁx evaluative dimension. The experience of affect supports point or centre of interest. Klein intended the boundary on-line evaluation of the sense-making process as the between artwork and viewer to dissolve completely, lead- viewer continually adjusts her body movements to main- ing to a state of heightened sensibility. tain interaction while moving in and out of synch. Move- The second example is Lucio Fontana’s Concetto spa- ment and motion are value-laden and condition the ziale, a collection of works begun in 1949 that consist in viewer’s sensory experiences and feelings for the artwork holes and slashes on the surface of monochrome paintings, and the interaction as a whole, and therefore inﬂuence the strongest impact being made by slashes on white, red actions and behaviour that unfold on the larger, interme- and raw canvases. The slashes turn the two-dimensional diate temporal and spatial scales to which people usually work into a three-dimensional one and create depth where direct their conscious attention, for instance, when they as there is none. They lead the viewer’s gaze towards the visitors circle the museum space to ﬁnd the optimal van- holes in the canvas, and leaves her struggling to see what if tage points for taking in the individual artworks currently anything is hiding in the gaps. The slashes are obviously on display one by one. By bodily and mentally moving manmade, brutal while precise, made with a sharp object with the artwork viewers can actively exploit material and by determinate rhythmic movements that cause motor space for exploration and seek out positions and trajecto- and emotional resonance in the viewer’s brain (Umilta ries that are conducive to making sense. et al. 2012). The gaps, like the slashes, can seem both We can think of engaging with an artwork as a second- intriguing and frightening, anticipating the unknown via person relation characterized by openness and curiosity, the darkness looming below the surface of the canvas. making way for understanding. As the interaction between Klein’s and Fontana’s works grab the viewer as it were viewer and artwork unfolds, the agent will notice new aspects 123 212 Cogn Process (2018) 19:201–213 aesthetic. Contemporary Aesthetics 3. Accessed 25 Oct 2016. http:// of the artwork and new patterns of variations will emerge that digitalcommons.risd.edu/liberalarts_contempaesthetics/vol3/iss1/ increase the complexity and saturation of the interaction. Di Dio C, Ardizzi M, Massaro D, Di Cesare G, Gilli G, Marchetti A The view that bodily movement is essential to aesthetic et al (2016) Human, nature, dynamism: the effects of content and experience reﬂects the conception of the visual arts prac- movement perception on brain activations during the aesthetic judgment of representational paintings. 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Published: Apr 8, 2017
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