Humans like art. We like looking at art. And as it turns out, there might be evidence that humans are biologically wired to appreciate art.
According to a study published in the June issue of journal Brain and Cognition, art appreciation may be a natural process of the human brain, such that looking at visual works organically triggers memory, emotions like pleasure or fear, and processes that allow people to attribute meaning to new information they absorb.
Conducted by University of Toronto researchers, the eight-year long, seven country-spanning meta-study details a vast spectrum of newfound information gleaned from past researach that may prove the age-old adage of art for art's sake. Some aspects of the original tests included having participants view paintings and make aesthetic analyses, while others asked participants to view the artworks freely, and in any manner they desired. All the while, repeated brain scans proved that art directly tickles our synapses. Regardless if it's mesmerizing or polarizing art, we react to it. This is good. This might be what makes us human.
The researchers' first discovery regarded the formal elements of artworks, noting that “the shape, color, and orientation, activated diverse areas of the visual cortex”— the part of the brain responsible for processing visual information— and through the lingual, middle occipital, and fusiform gyrus. This seems straightforward enough; what you initially see in an artwork gets processed by the visual center of your brain. But from there, the research only became more interesting.
One of the finds includes the ways in which our brain’s “anterior temporal lobe, which is involved in…higher-order conceptual integration of information in relation to objects (e.g. how does a knife function),” is stimulated through the viewing of art. This essentially means that our own logic regarding how particular objects works enters into dialogue with the logic of the object in question. This directly correlates to art's influence over thinking.
The scientists also “observed activation in the posterior cingulate cortex bilaterally,” a part of the brain linked to our inner thoughts and emotions—an unexpected revelation that wasn’t part of their three original hypotheses. These details could suggest that art biologically triggers pleasure, pain, expectations, pain, or other emotions. In other words, culture didn't train us to respond emotionally to art; evolution did.
Call your art teachers, because it's official: art goes deep. h/t Complex