2017-05-09Zeitschriftenartikel DOI: 10.3389/fpsyg.2017.00727
Complementarity As Generative Principle: A Thought Pattern for Aesthetic Appreciations and Cognitive Appraisals in General
In experimental aesthetics the relationship between the arts and cognitive neuroscience has gained particular interest in recent years. But has cognitive neuroscience indeed something to offer when studying the arts? Here we present a theoretical frame within which the concept of complementarity as a generative or creative principle is proposed; neurocognitive processes are characterized by the duality of complementary activities like bottom-up and top-down control, or logistical functions like temporal control and content functions like perceptions in the neural machinery. On that basis a thought pattern is suggested for aesthetic appreciations and cognitive appraisals in general. This thought pattern is deeply rooted in the history of philosophy and art theory since antiquity; and complementarity also characterizes neural operations as basis for cognitive processes. We then discuss some challenges one is confronted with in experimental aesthetics; in our opinion, one serious problem is the lack of a taxonomy of functions in psychology and neuroscience which is generally accepted. This deficit makes it next to impossible to develop acceptable models which are similar to what has to be modeled. Another problem is the severe language bias in this field of research as knowledge gained in many languages over the ages remains inaccessible to most scientists. Thus, an inspection of research results or theoretical concepts is necessarily too narrow. In spite of these limitations we provide a selective summary of some results and viewpoints with a focus on visual art and its appreciation. It is described how questions of art and aesthetic appreciations using behavioral methods and in particular brain-imaging techniques are analyzed and evaluated focusing on such issues like the representation of artwork or affective experiences. Finally, we emphasize complementarity as a generative principle on a practical level when artists and scientists work directly together which can lead to new insights and broader perspectives on both sides.