Over at The Scientist, Anjan Chatterjee argues that neuroaesthetics helps to advance “our understanding of how humans process beauty and art.”
Neuroaesthetics tells us, for example, that artists often represent aspects of light or motion that we can’t see with naked eye and that artists exaggerate forms for emphasis. It tells us that brain damage can effect how painters paint and that different kinds of paintings activate different parts of the brain. (“Portraits activate the ‘face area’ in the fusiform gyrus and landscape paintings activate the “place area” in the parahippocampal.”) It has also “discovered” that images of beauty produce pleasure: “The pleasure that people derive from viewing objects they find beautiful taps into our brain’s reward circuitry.”
In short, yes, neuroaesthetics may tell us a great deal about how “humans process art,” but this tells us almost nothing about art and its importance to human beings. In fact, the one thing that would be worth knowing—why art produces the emotions it does—Chatterjee admits neuroscience can’t explain.
Well, good on him, at least, for his honesty.