Emotion and Empirical Aesthetics
The rise in neuroaesthetics laboratories across the globe has led to scores of experiments designed to grasp people’s emotional, cognitive and perceptual responses to artworks, yet few researchers have studied spectators experiencing visual art in actual exhibitions. In 2015, Volker Kirchberg and Martin Tröndle published the results of their five-year experiment, whereby they mapped the physiological, social, psychological and aesthetic experiences of ‘600 diverse persons with a designed exhibition of classic modern and contemporary art as part of the Swiss national research project eMotion’. Their study’s most counter-intuitive discovery is the negligible role played by emotional response for those most engaged with artworks, that is, those spectators who regularly assess, evaluate and judge artworks. Given that not all appreciative attitudes reflect emotional responses, this paper argues that it would behoove researchers to study artworks that literally ‘move us’, causing us to take action, shift perspectives and adopt new values.
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