Hyojun Lee & Marco Sperduti (LMCC) on “The beauty and the self”

May 2021, Monday 31st, 11:00am to 1:00pm

Venue: BigBlueButton room

Abstract: A long-lasting and unresolved debate in the field of aesthetics is the extent to which beauty is inherent to the object of appreciation or to the subject contemplating it. Several studies suggest that physical features (e.g., symmetry, contrast) of an artwork influence aesthetic judgement. Nevertheless, this objectivist approach fails to explain the idiosyncratic nature of aesthetic experiences (AE). Recent models propose a multi-process account of AE, integrating a subjective evaluation based on self-referential processing. This proposition seems coherent with neuroimaging studies showing activation of a common neural network during AE and self-reference. Nevertheless, behavioural data supporting this hypothesis is scarce. We took advantage of the self-reference effect (SRE) in memory – the mnemonic advantage for material encoded in a self-related mode – to test the hypothesis that aesthetic judgement is based on self-related processes. We predicted that if aesthetic judgement recruits self-referential processing, incidentally encoding artworks in this condition should produce a similar mnemonic advantage as the SRE. To test this hypothesis, 30 participants incidentally encoded 60 paintings in three conditions: self-reference, judgement of beauty and judgement of symmetry (control condition). We found that items encoded in the aesthetic judgment condition were as well recognized as those encoded in self-reference condition when participants gave extreme judgements on the beauty scale during encoding. These findings suggest that at least intense AEs activate an individual’s sense of self.

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