Neuroimaging studies of aesthetic appreciation have shown that activity in the lateral occipital area (LO)-a key node in the object recognition pathway-is modulated by the extent to which visual artworks are liked or found beautiful. However, the available evidence is only correlational. Here we used transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) to investigate the putative causal role of LO in the aesthetic appreciation of paintings. In our first experiment, we found that interfering with LO activity during aesthetic appreciation selectively reduced evaluation of representational paintings, leaving appreciation of abstract paintings unaffected. A second experiment demonstrated that, although the perceived clearness of the images overall positively correlated with liking, the detrimental effect of LO TMS on aesthetic appreciation does not owe to TMS reducing perceived clearness. Taken together, our findings suggest that object-recognition mechanisms mediated by LO play a causal role in aesthetic appreciation of representational art.
- Aesthetic appreciation
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Cognitive Neuroscience
- Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
- Neuropsychology and Physiological Psychology
- Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
- Developmental and Educational Psychology