Neuroaesthetics: The Cognitive Neuroscience of Aesthetic Experience

The field of neuroaesthetics has gained in popularity in recent years but also attracted criticism from the perspectives both of the humanities and the sciences. In an effort to consolidate research in the field, we characterize neuroaesthetics as the cognitive neuroscience of aesthetic experience, drawing on long traditions of research in empirical aesthetics on the one hand and cognitive neuroscience on the other. The authors clarify the aims and scope of the field, identifying relations among neuroscientific investigations of aesthetics, beauty, and art. The approach they advocate takes as its object of study a wide spectrum of aesthetic experiences, resulting from interactions of individuals, sensory stimuli, and context. Drawing on its parent fields, a cognitive neuroscience of aesthetics would investigate the complex cognitive processes and functional networks of brain regions involved in those experiences without placing a value on them. Thus, the cognitive neuroscientific approach may develop in a way that is mutually complementary to approaches in the humanities.