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Culture & Religion

Will Neuroscience Create a New Art?

With the cultural theories of the ’90s in decline, the humanities have begun picking up on neuroscience as the newest way of understanding how we relate to the world. But will it be good for art?

What’s the Latest Development?

The rising field of neuroaesthetics asks whether our brains are structured so that paintings and other artistic productions move us in a certain way. “One neuroimaging study, conducted at University College, London, set out to explain how we experience beauty in visual art. Ten people were shown 300 paintings while their heads were in an fMRI machine. They were asked to label the paintings as neutral, beautiful or ugly. The paintings they thought were beautiful led to increased activity in their frontal cortex, while the ugly paintings led to a similar increase in their motor cortex.”

What’s the Big Idea?

Whereas cultural studies confronted the humanities along lines of social justice, neuroscience takes a more overtly economic tack. “It’s not hard to imagine a future when neurohumanities and neuroaesthetics have become so adulated that they rise up and out of the academy. Soon enough, they may seep into writers’ colonies and artists’ studios, where ‘culture producers’ confronting a sagging economy and a distracted audience will embrace ‘Neuro Art’ as their new selling point. Will writers start creating characters and plots designed to trigger the ‘right’ neuronal responses in their readers and finally sell 20,000 copies rather than 3,000?”

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Read it at the Nation


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