How do we distinguish art from non-art artifacts, and what does cognitive science have to do with it? In Attentional Engines: A Perceptual Theory of the Arts (Oxford University Press, 2020), William Seeley offers a cognitive science-based account of how we engage with art, what it is that artworks do, and what artists do to make sure they do it. In his diagnostic recognition framework for locating art, artworks are communicative devices in which artists embed perceptual cues that enable the perceiver to categorize the work as intended and thereby unlock its meanings. Seeley, an associate professor at the University of Southern Maine, also considers how his framework might handle conceptual art, what goes wrong when a novice about art perceives an artwork, and the relation between the neuroscience of art and neuroaesthetics.
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