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Contextual bias and insulation against bias during aesthetic rating. The roles of VMPFC and DLPFC in neural valuation

Kirk, Ulrich; Freedberg, David A.

The scientific study of aesthetic experience through the examination of the neural correlates of sensory and motor responses works of art and to other visual images has thrived during the last decade. The neural substrate of embodied responses to works of art, and to visual images more generally, has been the object of much attention. This research, however, has tended to sidestep the question of aesthetic preference and rating, and the neural correlates of contextual influences on such ratings. Responses in the domain of perception–action coupling have provided useful and important evidence for the role of somatic and emotional responses in viewers’ engagement with works of art. Nevertheless, the degree to which they form the basis of evaluation, ranking, and even judgment remains unclear. In this chapter we concentrate on the respective roles of the ventromedial prefrontal cortex (VMPFC) and the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (DLPFC) during aesthetic evaluation, particularly the aesthetic evaluation of visual works of art. Activity in these areas is modulated by external contextual pressures on viewing. The roles of ACC, hippocampal and striatal connections in the process of rating and evaluating works of visual art, and the relationship between expert and non-expert responses, are also discussed.


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Also Published In

Art, Aesthetics and the Brain
Oxford University Press

More About This Work

Academic Units
Art History and Archaeology
Published Here
October 21, 2015