PhD defence N.N.N. (Noah) van Dongen


Prof. dr. C.J.M. van Eijck


Prof. dr. J.W. van Strien


Dr. K. Dijkstra

Friday 4 Sep 2020, 09:30 - 11:00
PhD defence
Senate Hall
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On Friday 4 September 2020, N.N.N. (Noah) van Dongen will defend his dissertation, entitled: 'Investigations into Art Appreciation'. 

The research presented in this dissertation contributes to bringing neuroscience and cultural-sociology closer together in their endeavor to explain art and aesthetics.

Art and aesthetics has enjoyed a long history of philosophy and investigation. Currently, most research is undertaken by either cultural sociology and cognitive neuroscience (neuroaesthetics). However, these fields mostly operate in isolation and, in doing so, fail to incorporate each other’s theoretical and methodological knowledge. The research reported in this dissertation is an attempt to bridge this divide. For instance, part of the research was geared towards the investigation of the effect of contrast on art appreciation, which has been postulated as a universal law in neuroaesthetics.

Results from another study indicated that presenting something as a work of has an effect on the perceiver that is measurable at the level of the brain. For this study, photos were presented that varied from everyday objects and scenes (e.g., furniture) to extremely rare and shocking events (e.g., mutilated bodies). These photos were presented as either artworks from a museum collection or archive photographs. Not only were photos evaluated as more beautiful when presented as art, a reduction in emotional response was also measurable in terms of reduced electromagnetic activity across the cortex. For instance, a mutilated body invoked a less severe emotional response when it was presented as work of art.

In summary, this dissertation paints an optimistic picture for fruitful further collaboration between cultural sociology and cognitive neuroscience in their quest to understand and explain art and aesthetics.

Due to Corona, the PhD defences do not take place publicly in the usual way in the Senate Room or the Professor Andries Querido Room. The candidates will defend their dissertation either in a small group or online.

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