A Little Science to the Art of Putting

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Website by Sannin. News About Contact. Social media Share this article. View Comments. TAGS: home brewing Tasman. Popular National. Latest National. Latest All Regions. The question of whether prediction errors can be experienced as positive also relates to the conceptual confusion on what exactly an aesthetic experience entails. We can safely assume that art has to be rewarding in one way or another; otherwise, we would not be motivated to engage with it.

Finally, a particular painting might also be differently appreciated depending on the context of stimulation, as we will briefly discuss in the next section. Because of the prediction errors, we feel impelled to question our perception and to linger on its contents. These visual or cognitive challenges urge us to, implicitly or explicitly, go through multiple cycles, exploring different predictions and the corresponding errors Leder et al They grant access to different layers of meaning, which we so much like to discover. They create the multi-interpretability and ambiguity that has been invoked by others to explain our enjoyment of art Biederman and Vessel ; Mamassian ; Zeki ; van Leeuwen In the context of creative discovery, Verstijnen et al have coined the term surplus structure to denote that through externalizing their ideas in sketches, artists themselves discover new, unanticipated features and interpretations of the raw ideas.

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Might this be true? Not so much because in sketches they can more lucidly represent their ideas but rather because sketches allow them to depart more easily from ordinary ideas and exaggerate, restructure, and deform more freely, in other words amplify what would normally be prediction errors?

Biederman and Vessel's idea is basically that inferentially rich stimuli will be preferred because they are accompanied by more activity in regions higher up in the ventral visual stream, which possess higher amounts of mu-opioid receptors. This hypothesis is not at all incompatible with our account.

Our optimally deviant expected patterns with a limited violation of intuitions, combine the rich inferences of a predictable pattern with the high saliency of the discrepancies which conspire to make a very emotional and memorable stimulus Sperber and Hirschfeld Discrepancies are attention grabbing and stimulate further processing, but only when strong predictions are first built up clear organization. This optimum makes for a highly relevant stimulus according to Sperber's theory because it guarantees the richest cognitive inferences for the least cognitive effort.

Our account also bears a clear resemblance to the Freudian notion of the uncanny das Unheimliche. Freud observed that we are disturbed and aroused by unfamiliar experiences in an otherwise completely familiar setting Proulx et al For example, in absurdist or surrealist art we often find an unfamiliar juxtaposition of very familiar objects. Thus, strong expectations have to be present before such an experience can ensue.

In a completely unfamiliar situation no strong predictions are formed, so no violations will be encountered. Incongruency or expectancy violation will result in negatively valenced arousal aimed at reducing the inconsistency if at all possible, as in our account. Some authors have even reported that this arousal can lead to an affirmation of any other meaning framework to which one is committed. For example, after exposure to an absurd Kafka parable, subjects more strongly affirmed their cultural identity than after reading one of Aesop's meaningful parables Proulx et al The meaning maintenance model, as this theory is called, has been developed to counter the terror management theory, which assumes that only mortality threat salience will cause people to defend their cultural world-view.

In a study by Landau et al terror management theory has also been applied to art appreciation. In further studies the authors find that this effect is limited to individuals with a high personal need for structure, and diminished when the abstract artworks were given meaning eg, by giving a title. This research goes to show that next to stable traits of the viewer and stable characteristics of the piece of art, aesthetic appreciation can also be influenced by the context-dependent cognitive and emotional mindset the viewer is in.

We could speculate that any contextual uncertainty prediction error or, in terms of the theories discussed, threat of meaninglessness could add up to the uncertainty in a painting and thus influence its appreciation. For instance, against a background of unpredictable versus rhythmic, cf supra tones a representational painting may be liked more, while an abstract painting might be liked less.

Related to this, Mueller et al in press recently probed implicit and explicit attitudes towards creativity after inducing a sense of uncertainty in half of their volunteers. These people were told they might receive additional payment based on a random lottery or, in a second experiment, they were primed to be intolerant of ambiguity. While explicit attitudes towards creativity were similar in the experimental and the controls, people in the high uncertainty condition had an unconscious bias against creativity and judged a highly creative idea less favorably.

Ultimately, maintaining or returning to predictability is about survival and maintaining the body through homeostasis Cerra and Bingham ; Van de Cruys and Wagemans in press ; Friston a. Predictive coding is about reinstating predictability and therefore about affirming one's own existence. So within a predictive coding framework, we do not need to assign a special status to the existential threat of mortality. We further assumed that making progress in this prediction project of life genuinely feels good or, in the case of art, is beautiful.

We hope to have shown that the predictive coding approach can summarize and throw a new light on existing concepts in the flourishing field of aesthetic appreciation, such as familiarity, complexity, novelty, prototypicality, interpretability, fluency, incongruency, ambiguity, and so. Further research will have to make clear what the added value is of thinking in terms of predictions and prediction errors in comparison with these concepts. We want to end our overview by discussing some of the limitations and advantages of our approach.

First of all, we do not want to reduce aesthetic experience to the formal mechanisms discussed. For instance, we are not saying we experience a full-blown aesthetic reaction when discovering the actual content or organization of 2-tone images, but our hypothesis is that a significant part of the aesthetic appreciation comes from discovering the organization after struggle. Second, we are being too vague when we claim that art is about optimally or minimally unpredictable stimuli. The amount but also the kind of prediction errors seems important. Some prediction errors are more potent than others.

For example, we saw that artists either induce strong predictions themselves in their viewer or rely on strong existing predictions of the domain used in the painting, to subsequently violate them. Also, different artists may have different preferences for the kind of prediction errors they use, as reflected in their style.

For instance, some artists play with classical grouping principles and their competition. Third, one might object that our focus on prediction errors is born out of cultural myopia. In Western art there is a strong impetus to be original and novel, and even to defy established traditions. In traditional, non-Western cultures, however, originality is often discouraged, and artists are expected to closely follow and endlessly repeat the same set of patterns passed on for centuries Dissanayake As we mentioned earlier, this repetitive art also involves a modulation of predictability but it seems to lack any prediction errors.

However, Dissanayake also notes that these forms of art originally take place in the context of ritual ceremonies in times of transition or uncertainty. Hence, she sees stress reduction or coping with uncertainty as an important adaptive function of art.

If we assume that, at least in these particular ceremonial situations, people in traditional societies experienced more life-threatening uncertainties than we do in our modern Western society, our hypothesis of a general preferred optimum of unpredictability could still hold. In traditional communities, art could primarily function as a vehicle for re-establishing predictability. In Western culture, on the other hand, we artificially create obstacles for predictability in art, disaster movies, etc to be able to experience the joys of their resolution while we often still use predictable patterns for our wallpapers and decorations.

Also, according to Dissanayake, art can be traced back to the simplified, repeated and stereotyped interactions between adults and children, which assist the development of emotional self-regulation, attention and learning. Indeed, the dynamics of prediction and emotion seem to be protracted in children, where, for instance, in the in the peek-a-boo game the contrast effect positive emotion following a negative one is more intense is easily observed. While art may therefore be a form of training of our exploratory learning capacities in a safe, playful context—information foraging is after all a vital human capacity Vessel —it didn't necessarily evolve for that reason.

Rather our approach connects to the neural recycling hypothesis Dehaene and Cohen , which assumes that art similar to, for example, writing didn't evolve for any particular adaptive function but is the result of cultural inventions exploiting evolutionarily older brain circuits and inheriting many of their structural constraints. Indeed, there is no art module in the brain that needed to evolve. Artistic abilities are piggy-backing on our perceptual and emotional information processing capacities.

Once in place, art may or may not have become a criterion by itself for selective forces to work on co-optation , for example, in mate selection Pinker or as a way to promote belonging to a social group. Fourth, unpredictability and its resolution are important in other human activities. For instance, games are most rewarding when they have just the right amount of difficulty, of unpredictability.

Similarly in humor we build up expectations and create discrepancies Hurley et al Even in science we are most astonished when a scholar discovers and manages to explain or make predictable a counter-intuitive discrepancy in a very familiar domain. One might wonder what, if anything, is special about art. But does art need such an essence? Could we not suffice by stating that it is a human activity involving the full emotional and cognitive abilities of human beings but with no immediate biological purpose?

A quasi-necessary result of a greatly expanded predictive capacity and an extended ability to delay gratification? Finally, how do we explain within the predictive coding framework that humans—while ultimately aimed at maximizing predictability, or equivalently, minimizing prediction errors—still explore unpredictable stimuli, and even intentionally create them, as in the case of art. This is a matter of current debate Fiorillo ; Friston a , b. The immediate motivation of seeking prediction errors may, in our view, be obtaining a larger reward by contrast later.

His generalization of predictive coding in the free energy principle optimizes this motion through sensory state-space. Turning to the advantages of our approach, artists and art critics will approve of the importance of the active, albeit largely implicit, role of the subject the viewer in the predictive coding approach.

The work takes place when a human being cooperates with the product so that the outcome is an experience that is enjoyed because of its liberating and ordered properties. Thus, predictive coding seems to agree with how artists themselves think about what they do. Any outline sketch is a sketch of the differences that the visual system would pick up when viewing the real scene.

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In fact, scene category can be decoded from fMRI activity in the visual system during the viewing of line drawings of scenes, just as well as from brain activity while viewing colour photographs of the scenes Walther et al In addition, honoring Occam's razor, we may not need a special, separate psychological theory for aesthetics by using predictive coding. This is consistent with the idea that general-purpose motivations and capacities are involved in art, even though their particular combination might be special to art. In this case, we can rely on the cognitive and neural evidence for predictive coding, which is broader than visual perception Friston a ; Winkler et al The latter is particularly appealing because art obviously consists of more than visual perception alone.

Predicting is the default mode of the brain, encompassing perceptual and semantic levels. And even though the emotional implications of the predictive coding approach have not been thoroughly explored, its potential to connect perception, learning, and emotion may be clear from this proposal. Lastly, our view may open new avenues for the empirical study of aesthetic appreciation. Prediction error and confirmation may be tractable in the lab, and thus may allow us to isolate one mechanism involved in aesthetic appreciation.

For instance, we can induce strong short-term predictions in subjects and subsequently violate or confirm them. Also, it may help to have physiological markers of prediction violation, for example, in the event-related brain potential visual mismatch negativity Kimura et al Here we can expect that temporal aspects and expertise will critically influence the outcomes in perception and emotion. In this paper we have outlined a theory of art starting from the hierarchical, bidirectional dynamics of vision.

The positive affective evaluations result from a transition rather than a certain state of stimulation. A stimulus has to play hard to get before it can be pleasing Lehrer But because our cognitive system ultimately aims to return to predictability, an optimal amount of prediction error exists. Eventually understanding art implies fully understanding our brain not just the visual system and its embodied embeddedness in the natural, social, and cultural environment.

We are far from such an understanding, so any theorizing on art is necessarily preliminary and speculative. Our theory on art is really a theory about perception and emotion and their interplay because we believe that only by understanding this interaction we will come to comprehend human artistic behavior. We would like to thank Neil Dodgson, Cees van Leeuwen, and Michael Kubovy for constructive comments on an earlier draft of this paper. Sander Van de Cruys has a MA in social and cultural anthropology and in psychology from the University of Leuven, where he is currently pursuing a PhD in experimental psychology.

In his research he focuses on top- down influences in visual perception and on the interplay between perception and emotion see www. Johan Wagemans has a BA in psychology and philosophy, an MSc and a PhD in experimental psychology, all from the University of Leuven, where he is currently a full professor. Current research interests are mainly in so-called mid-level vision perceptual grouping, figure-ground organization, depth and shape perception but stretching out to low-level vision contrast detection and discrimination and high-level vision object recognition and categorization , including applications in autism, arts, and sports see www.

We just want to draw attention to a possible commonality in these pieces, which can appeal to both laymen and experts. National Center for Biotechnology Information , U. Journal List Iperception v. Published online Dec Sander Van de Cruys and Johan Wagemans. Author information Article notes Copyright and License information Disclaimer. Received Jul 8; Revised Nov This open-access article is distributed under a Creative Commons Licence, which permits noncommercial use, distribution, and reproduction, provided the original author s and source are credited and no alterations are made.

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This article has been cited by other articles in PMC. Abstract The predictive coding model is increasingly and fruitfully used to explain a wide range of findings in perception. Keywords: psychoaesthetics, Gestalt, art perception, predictive coding, reward, aesthetic emotion, perceptual organization. Predictive coding The predictive coding approach of perception holds that the brain actively anticipates upcoming sensory input rather than passively registers it.

Prediction and emotion Emotions can be seen as motivational amplifiers Huron An application to visual art Visual art is in many ways different from the visual input we ordinarily receive from our natural environment. Open in a separate window. Figure 1.

From auditory to visual pleasures We propose that while prediction error is always annoying or unpleasant initially and confirmed predictions are pleasurable as such mostly independent of their content , prediction errors or delayed prediction confirmation can be an important tool for artists to amplify the subsequent positive affect of prediction confirmation, in a sort of contrast effect Huron Figure 2. Figure 3. Figure 4. Figure 5. Art movements Vincent van Gogh in The Olive Trees Figure 6 plays with perceptual grouping by similarity parallel waves breaching the borders of the objects as defined by color and by our top-down knowledge of what the objects are in the scene trees, fields, sky.

Figure 6.

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Inter-individual differences and the optimum of un predictability We can derive two important hypotheses from the previous. Figure 7. Figure 8. The valence of prediction error A central assumption of our theory is that prediction errors are always to some extent emotional, more specifically negative in valence. No pain, no gain? Dynamics in art Our view emphasizes the role of the dynamics of perceptual processing in art appreciation. Figure 9. Figure The fate of prediction errors The examples so far might have made it clear that often we do not end up with a coherent, predictable Gestalt.

Inferentially rich, attention-grabbing meaning threats Because of the prediction errors, we feel impelled to question our perception and to linger on its contents. Remaining questions and concluding remarks We hope to have shown that the predictive coding approach can summarize and throw a new light on existing concepts in the flourishing field of aesthetic appreciation, such as familiarity, complexity, novelty, prototypicality, interpretability, fluency, incongruency, ambiguity, and so. Biography Sander Van de Cruys has a MA in social and cultural anthropology and in psychology from the University of Leuven, where he is currently pursuing a PhD in experimental psychology.

Footnotes 1 Of course, there is more to the paintings we discuss than the aspects we zoom in on. Henri Matisse: Roman. Paris: Gallimard; Art and Visual Perception. Generality vs. Edge World Question Center; Art as Experience. New York: Penguin; World art studies: Exploring concepts and approaches. Amsterdam: Valiz; The Organization of Behavior. New York: John Wiley; Sweet Anticipation: Music and the Psychology of Expectation. Beyond Mimesis and Convention. Dordrecht: Springer Netherlands; Surprise, Uncertainty, and Mental Structures.

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In: Aggleton J, editor. New York: Wiley-Liss; New York: Harcourt-Brace; New York: Russell Sage Foundation; Proust Was a Neuroscientist. New York: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt; Freedheim D K, editor. New York: John Wiley and Sons; Emotion and Meaning in Music. The blank slate: The modern denial of human nature. New York: Harper Perennial; New York: Oxford University Press; Speir believes that forensic science should include a blend of objectivity and subjectivity.

The database is ever-growing and Speir hopes the forensic and legal communities find value in it. At the time it was a small partnership with the FBI. Chemists and biologists oversaw the program because there were very few forensic scientists in academia. With support from the University and the Eberly College of Arts and Sciences, the program grew both in students and faculty. It earned accreditation, established mock crime scene houses — the largest such complex in the country — and added state-of-the-art laboratories such as the Ballistics Research Laboratory and advanced forensic photography lab.

The range of research undertaken by faculty include explosives, synthetic drugs, forensic toxicology, latent fingerprint recognition, printing ink evidence and insect and arthropod biology. By , the program blossomed into its own full-fledged department. Bell worked for the New Mexico State Police Crime Laboratory as a forensic chemist, drug analyst, arson analyst and crime scene investigator. She then worked at the U.