Modulation of aesthetic value by semantic context: An fMRI study

Anatomy Department, Wellcome Laboratory of Neurobiology, University College London, London, UK.
NeuroImage (Impact Factor: 6.36). 11/2008; 44(3):1125-32. DOI: 10.1016/j.neuroimage.2008.10.009
Source: PubMed


Aesthetic judgments, like most judgments, depend on context. Whether an object or image is seen in daily life or in an art gallery can significantly modulate the aesthetic value humans attach to it. We investigated the neural system supporting this modulation by presenting human subjects with artworks under different contexts whilst acquiring fMRI data. Using the same database of artworks, we randomly labelled images as being either sourced from a gallery or computer generated. Subjects' aesthetic ratings were significantly higher for stimuli viewed in the 'gallery' than 'computer' contexts. This contextual modulation correlated with activity in the medial orbitofrontal cortex and prefrontal cortex, whereas the context, independent of aesthetic value, correlated with bilateral activations of temporal pole and bilateral entorhinal cortex. This shows that prefrontal and orbitofrontal cortices recruited by aesthetic judgments are significantly biased by subjects' prior expectations about the likely hedonic value of stimuli according to their source.

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Available from: Oliver J Hulme, Oct 10, 2015
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    • "Their results showed that believing that the images were copies increased the activity in the frontopolar cortex, which in turn modulated activity in the visual cortex, which is consistent with participants' reports that in this condition they had attempted to identify the cues indicating that those portraits were copies. When the portraits were accompanied by the label 'authentic,' activity in the orbitofrontal cortex increased, similarly to Kirk et al. (2009b) finding. This sort of framing-effects appears to influence neural activity as soon as 200 ms after the presentation of the stimuli (Noguchi and Murota, 2013). "
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    ABSTRACT: Neuroesthetics is a subfield of cognitive neuroscience that studies the biological mechanisms and psychological processes evoked in the creator or the spectator when adopting an esthetic orientation toward an artistic or nonartistic object in the course of interacting with it. These psychological processes are related to perception, cognition, emotion, evaluation, social, and contextual aspects. Here, we outline the scope of neuroesthetics and summarize its historical background. We thereafter sketch three current approaches to neuroesthetics, and examine recent developments in three areas: emotions, context, and expertise. We finish with an exploration of the potential for future inquiry in neuroesthetics.
    International Encyclopedia of the Social& Behavioral Sciences, 2nd edited by James D. Wright, 05/2015: pages 656-663; Elsevier., ISBN: 9780080970868
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    • "The higher activity in the ACC would mean the need for intense processing to integrate more parameters to go against the usual response and this activity would not be necessary during a more usual response. Previous studies on the neural correlates of esthetic appreciation have found activity in the ACC related to the esthetic valuation (Kawabata and Zeki, 2004; Vartanian and Goel, 2004; Kirk et al., 2009). However, all of them found the activity in the subcallosal region of the ACC which is connected mostly to some limbic areas related to the second division indicated by Bush et al. (2000): the rostral-ventral affective division. "
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    ABSTRACT: Studies of visual esthetic preference have shown that people without art training generally prefer representational paintings to abstract paintings. This, however, is not always the case: preferences can sometimes go against this usual tendency. We aimed to explore this issue, investigating the relationship between “unusual responses” and reaction time in an esthetic appreciation task. Results of a behavioral experiment confirmed the trend for laypeople to consider as beautiful mostly representational stimuli and as not beautiful mostly abstract ones (“usual response”). Furthermore, when participants gave unusual responses, they needed longer time, especially when considering abstract stimuli as beautiful. We interpreted this longer time as greater involvement of cognitive mastering and evaluation processes during the unusual responses. Results of an fMRI experiment indicated that the anterior cingulate (ACC), orbitofrontal cortex (OFC) and insula were the main structures involved in this effect. We discuss the possible role of these areas in an esthetic appreciation task.
    Frontiers in Human Neuroscience 07/2014; 8(520). DOI:10.3389/fnhum.2014.00520 · 2.99 Impact Factor
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    • "Brown et al. (2011) meta-analyzed 93 neuroimaging studies of aesthetic appraisal across four sensory modalities and showed that the most concordant area of activation across all four modalities is the right anterior insula, which reflects the “viscerality” of aesthetic perception. Although this meta-analysis revealed the activation of the right anterior insula, regarding the aesthetic appreciation of oil paintings, so far, the activation of the orbitofrontal cortex has been reported (Kirk, 2008; Kirk et al., 2009a,b; Ishizu and Zeki, 2011). Also, the activation of lingual gyrus has been shown (Kawabata and Zeki, 2004; Vartanian and Goel, 2004) while that of occipital gyri has been reported (Vartanian and Goel, 2004; Cupchik et al., 2009). "
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    ABSTRACT: Several studies have investigated neural correlates of aesthetic appreciation for paintings but to date the findings have been heterogeneous. This heterogeneity may be attributed to previous studies' measurement of aesthetic appreciation of not only the beauty of paintings but also the beauty of motifs of the paintings. In order to better elucidate the beauty of paintings, it seems necessary to compare aesthetic appreciation of paintings and photographic analogs which included corresponding real images. We prepared for famous painters' pictures and their photographic analogs which were set up to resemble each painting in order to investigate the hypothesis that there exist specific neural correlates associated with the aesthetic appreciation for paintings. Forty-four subjects participated in functional magnetic resonance study which required comparisons of aesthetic appreciation of paintings of still life and landscape versus photographic analogs including corresponding real images of still life and landscape. Bilateral cuneus and the left lingual gyrus were activated in the comparison of aesthetic appreciation of paintings versus photographic analogs. In conclusion, the present findings suggest a possibility of the existence of specific neural correlates associated with the aesthetic appreciation for paintings and that bilateral cuneus and the left lingual gyrus may be involved.
    Frontiers in Human Neuroscience 07/2014; 8:478. DOI:10.3389/fnhum.2014.00478 · 2.99 Impact Factor
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