Neurology and the New Riddle of Pictorial Style
Three lines of thought argue for an engagement hypothesis regarding pictorial style: the view that styles encourage perceivers to identify depicted objects using their perceptual resources in certain ways. The first view holds that artworks are hypotheses with design properties that make them testable and thus epistemically attractive, analogous to features that make animals attractive as mates. The second is that styles are like ethological triggers, a response to which is conducive to survival by virtue of the food, protection, or knowledge that it provides. The third treats styles as in terms of the perceptual and cognitive resources they tend to elicit; perceptual strategies that prevail in an individual’s brain through a competition for neural resources that is like evolution writ small. I argue that each view is inadequate, but defend a new variation on the third.
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