Is there a relationship between aesthetic and interpersonal experience? This question is motivated not only by the fact that historically experiences of both kinds have often been accounted for in terms of “empathy”, the English translation of the German term “Einfühlung”, but also by the fact that some contemporary theories refer to mechanisms underlying both aes- thetic and interpersonal experience. In this Editorial introducing the special section titled “From ‘Einfühlung’ to empathy: exploring the relationship between aesthetic and interpersonal experience”, we briefly sketch these two motivations and the relationship between the different mechanisms that have been associated with both aesthetic and interpersonal experience. Keywords Einfühlung · Empathy · Aesthetics · Interpersonal experience Introduction Lipps (1903, 1906). The term “Einfühlung” literally means “feeling into” and refers to an act of projecting oneself into Is there a relationship between aesthetic and interpersonal another body or environment, i.e.—in Vischer’s (1873, p. experience? Historically, this question is motivated by the 7) terms—to an imaginary bodily “displacement” (“Verset- fact that experiences of both types have been accounted zung”) of oneself into another body or environment, which for in terms of the German notion of “Einfühlung”, which is aimed at understanding how it feels to be in that other Edward Titchener (1909) and James Ward (cf. Lanzoni body or environment. In other words, it refers to some kind 2012) translated as “empathy”, thus introducing the latter of imaginary bodily perspective taking, which is aimed at term into the English language. Accordingly, it is possible to understanding what it would be like to be living another distinguish between aesthetic and interpersonal “empathy” body or another environment. Notably, the other body or the in English in much the same way as it is possible to distin- other environment where one “feels into” needs not neces- guish between aesthetic and interpersonal “Einfühlung” in sarily be physically present, but it may as well be only rep- German, thereby suggesting a common psychological mech- resented, and it may even be only imaginary. For example, anism supposed to underlie both aesthetic and interpersonal by “feeling into” a painted or verbally described landscape “empathy”. The notion of “Einfühlung” was theoretically it is supposedly possible to understand what it would be like developed in nineteenth- and early twentieth-century Ger- to be in that landscape and thus to understand its particu- man aesthetics (cf. Curtis and Elliott 2014 for a historical lar emotional tune or “atmosphere”. Similarly, by “feeling overview), especially by Robert Vischer (1873) and Theodor into” a portrait, a sculpture, or a tale of a human being, it is supposedly possible to understand what it would be like to be that human being and thus to understand its particular * Joanna Ganczarek emotion or mood. Furthermore, the other body or the other email@example.com environment where one “feels into” needs not necessarily be Neurocognitive Psychology Lab, Pedagogical University human but may be potentially any kind of body or environ- of Cracow, ul. Podchorazych 2, 30-084 Cracow, Poland ment. Accordingly, it is supposedly possible to “feel into” ECONA – Interuniversity Center for Research on Cognitive animals, plants, or even inanimate objects, whose bodies and Processing in Natural and Artificial Systems, Sapienza environments are radically different from one’s own human University of Rome, Via dei Marsi 78, 00185 Rome, Italy body and environment. Therefore, the notion of “Einfüh- Department of Psychology, Sapienza University of Rome, lung” is historically closely related to panpsychist ideas. In Via dei Marsi 78, 00185 Rome, Italy Vol.:(0123456789) 1 3 142 Cognitive Processing (2018) 19:141–145 ordinary practice, however, the act of “feeling into” is usu- “Einfühlung”. These two other forms are “Zufühlung”, i.e. ally applied rather to bodies or environments that are more the “feeling towards” the sensory properties of an object or less similar to one’s own body and environment. Accord- (e.g. its brightness and colour), and “Nachfühlung”, i.e. the ingly, it is usually applied to other human beings, but it is “feeling along” the motor properties of an object (e.g. its also readily applied to works of art, thus giving rise to the actual or potential movement). Notably, corresponding to distinction between aesthetic and interpersonal “empathy”. these two different kinds of “feeling” which do not involve In fact, works of art, in general, and works of figurative art, imaginary bodily perspective taking, Vischer distinguished in particular, call for the act of “feeling into” another body two different kinds of “Einfühlung”, i.e. two different kinds or another environment for two main reasons: (1) all works of “feeling” which result from imaginary bodily perspec- of art are human artefacts, i.e. they have been produced by tive taking, namely “sensory empathy” (“sensitive Einfüh- other human beings living in other historical, cultural, and lung”), i.e. the “feeling into” the sensory properties of an personal environments, and (2) works of figurative art repre- object, and “motor empathy” (“motorische Einfühlung”), sent bodies or environments, and in particular often human i.e. the “feeling into” the motor properties of an object. beings or human environments. Aesthetic and interpersonal Furthermore, corresponding to the resulting four different “empathy” therefore differs mainly in that interpersonal kinds of “feeling” with respect to an object, Vischer distin- “empathy” concerns other human beings, whereas aesthetic guished four different kinds of “sensation” (“Empfindung”), “empathy” concerns human artefacts, especially those rep- namely “Zuempfindung”, “Nachempfindung”, and sensory resenting human beings or human environments. and motor “Einempfindung”. For Vischer, “feeling” differs This brief introduction into the notion of “Einfühlung” from “sensation” in that it is less “primitive” and “more highlights several essential aspects of the psychological objective”, i.e. it is a somewhat more elaborate mental state mechanism that supposedly underlies both aesthetic and that involves being aware of others having similar feelings interpersonal “empathy”. In particular, it evidences (1) the as oneself. Thus, Vischer’s (1873) first theoretical account fundamental role of perspective taking, (2) the essential of the notion of “Einfühlung” does not only illustrate the role of embodiment and bodily situatedness in perspec- fundamental role of imaginary bodily perspective taking in tive taking, and (3) the essential role of the affective, and “empathy”, but it also illustrates two further features that more precisely qualitative (i.e. qualia-like), effects of such are somewhat in contrast with some contemporary notions bodily perspective taking. To further illustrate the psycho- of “empathy”. In fact, it implies that “empathy” needs not logical mechanism that is thus supposed to be involved in necessarily be related to the motor properties of an object both aesthetic and interpersonal “empathy”, it is helpful to and it implies that “empathy” involves the awareness that consider Robert Vischer’s (1873) first theoretical account there are others who have similar mental states as oneself. of the notion of “Einfühlung”. For Vischer, in fact, “Ein- Nowadays, the historical and conceptual roots of the fühlung” is only one of a whole set of different kinds of concept of “empathy” and the related historical account of affective responses to objects (see Table 1). In particular, the relationship between aesthetic and interpersonal expe- Vischer distinguished “Einfühlung”, or “feeling into”, from rience have got partially out of sight. Yet, there are also two other kinds of “feeling” with respect to an object, which some contemporary proposals that refer to a common, fun- do not involve the imaginary bodily perspective taking, or damental mechanism underlying both aesthetic and interper- bodily “projection” into an object, that is characteristic of sonal experience. Vittorio Gallese’s (2001) shared manifold Table 1 Different kinds of affective responses to objects according to Vischer (1873) Affective response Concerning an object’s sensory Concerning an object’s properties motor properties Not involving perspective taking Without awareness of others having similar feelings as oneself Zuempfindung Nachempfindung (sensing towards) (sensing along) With awareness of others having similar feelings as oneself Zufühlung Nachfühlung (feeling towards) (feeling along) Involving perspective taking Without awareness of others having similar feelings as oneself sensitive Einempfindung motorische Einempfindung (sensing into) (sensing into) With awareness of others having similar feelings as oneself sensitive Einfühlung motorische Einfühlung (feeling into) (feeling into) = “sensory empathy” = “motor empathy” 1 3 Cognitive Processing (2018) 19:141–145 143 hypothesis is one of the most important approaches that an imitation—via muscular tension—of the lines of tension explicitly deal with the issue in question. Gallese proposes that these forms depict or imply. This imitation represents that our brains are hard-wired not only for understanding an even stronger claim of embodiment with respect to Gal- other people’s emotions, actions and intentions but also for lese’s account of embodied simulation. Whereas embodied understanding artworks. While the mirror neurons system simulation relied on brain-based representations of body is supposed to be the neural base allowing such understand- states, Ruggieri’s account of imitation relies on actual ing, embodied simulation is supposed to be the psycho- modifications of muscular tension. These modifications of logical mechanism responsible for it. Embodied simulation muscular tension cause affective experiences which influ- entails activation of internal representations of body states ence the perception of objects. In other words, viewers feel that correspond to the observed body states. This mirroring certain bodily sensations which are attributed to the per- mechanism gives rise to the “as if” experience, i.e. simula- ceived object. Moreover, Ruggieri proposes that besides the tion of being involved in a similar emotion or action. In imitative mechanism existing in both interpersonal and aes- the interpersonal context, Gallese proposes that embodied thetic situations, these two contexts share one more aspect. simulation is a basic mechanism for social identification and He argues that there is an important precondition necessary intentional attunement (Gallese 2009). In the aesthetic con- for a successful contact with a person or an artwork. This text, it is considered a basic mechanism for experiencing precondition relies on a preliminary attitude characterised the content (i.e. depicted actions, emotions and sensations) by an optimal level of basic muscular tension that one must and form (i.e. visible traces of artist’s creative gestures) of assume in order to come into contact with an external object artworks. Besides mirror neurons, Gallese argues that also and imitate it. Once this initial precondition is satisfied, the a second class of neurons, namely canonical neurons, could imitative decoding can take place. Imitative decoding thus be crucial for embodied simulation in response to objects differs from “Einfühlung” in that, similarly to Gallese’s the- depicted in artworks. Canonical neurons, contrary to mir- ory, no particular imaginary bodily “displacement” is nec- ror neurons, are not active during action observation but essary, but it is enough to “resonate” with an object. What are active when looking at objects. Gallese proposes that connects imitative decoding with “Einfühlung” is the focus canonical neurons allow viewers to simulate a possible inter- on the bodily experience of perceivers and the link between action with observed objects. Importantly, despite the fact bodily muscular response and affective experiences. that these two classes of neurons are activated in different Other approaches referring to mechanisms underlying situations, both of them underlie the same mechanism, i.e. both aesthetic and interpersonal experience contribute fur- embodied simulation. Even more importantly, while the ther to the issue in question. For example, Van de Cruys author admits that other factors influence aesthetic as well as and Wagemans (2011) see predictive coding as a common interpersonal experience (e.g. context, familiarity), he argues mechanism allowing synchronisation in aesthetic and inter- that embodied simulation is the common basic mechanism. personal situations. In their view, perception of artworks and The idea of embodied simulation thus differs from “Ein- other people is linked with expectations about the incoming fühlung” insofar as (1) it doesn’t require imaginary bodily information which leads to generation of predictive models perspective taking, i.e. the imaginary bodily “displacement” of, for example, intentions. If the models meet reality, i.e. into an object and, (2) it is necessarily related to the motor if a viewer understands someone else’s intention, empathic properties of an object (e.g. its real or potential motion, its attunement can occur causing affectively coloured interac- affordances, and possibly its being an artefact) but not to tion with an artistic or social stimulus. In a similar vein, its sensory properties (e.g. its brightness or colour). What Leder et al. (2004) propose that the aesthetic and interper- instead connects the notion of embodied simulation with sonal experience converge when viewers elaborate on an art- “Einfühlung” is the stress on embodiment in terms of activa- ist’s intentions. Other authors stress that emotional sharing tion of associated bodily states and their role in perceivers’ might be important in both contexts: experiencing sadness affective experiences. or fear with other viewers is similar to sharing emotions in Another proposal which makes a direct connection everyday life (Egloff 2017). Others again argue that the trait between interpersonal and aesthetic experience is the imita- empathy which facilitates interpersonal experiences, might tive decoding theory developed by Vezio Ruggieri (1986, also facilitate the experience of emotions in art (Gerger et al. 1997, 2001). The theory was initially based on studies on 2017) and in particular the experience of negative emotions imitation of facial expressions, but soon it was also applied in art (Menninghaus et al. 2017). to the domain of art. The shift from interpersonal to aes- Considering these views on the relationship between thetic experience was accomplished through the notion of aesthetic and interpersonal experience, our aim was to imitation that is believed to be a mechanism underlying both stimulate an interdisciplinary debate and provide a new types of experiences. The theory states that perception and perspective on contemporary accounts of the relation- decoding of external forms of objects or people involves ship between these two types of experiences. The papers 1 3 144 Cognitive Processing (2018) 19:141–145 collected in this special section address the relationship Compliance with ethical standards between aesthetic and interpersonal experience from Conflict of interest The authors declare that they have no conflict of in- a variety of different angles, demonstrating the impact terest. and versatility of both processes, on the one hand, and their complexity, on the other. The contributing authors Open Access This article is distributed under the terms of the Crea- propose multiple distinct theoretical approaches such as tive Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (http://creat iveco philosophy, developmental psychology, psychophysiol- mmons.or g/licenses/b y/4.0/), which permits unrestricted use, distribu- tion, and reproduction in any medium, provided you give appropriate ogy, experimental aesthetics and service design. Within credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the these contexts, they describe different mechanisms that Creative Commons license, and indicate if changes were made. might be found in both interpersonal and aesthetic experi- ence. Gerger et al. (2018) refer to simulation and its basis References in neural mirroring, following Freedberg and Gallese’s account of embodied aesthetic experience (Freedberg Brinck I (2018) Empathy, engagement, entrainment: the interaction and Gallese 2007). 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