A (very) loosely organized accumulation of resources, largely serendipitous, used for presentations  




“The best story we can tell with the best evidence we have”

(more on STORIES)

EACH TOPIC is connected to a collection of NOTES and RESOURCES, including READINGS (read about readings)


Below, are collections of notes on topics and ideas that have emerged in seminar each year since 1979 . The numerous intersecting themes enable many ways to index or cross-index resources BUT there is no attempt to organize these systematically until we discuss them in seminar.  The topics combine intuitive and historical insights awaiting organized reconfiguration in the light of each participant’s unique perspectives. 

cumulative sitemap for resources


INTRODUCTION  (“The professor’s problem: “So, we have generations of teachers who can speak eloquently to concepts and their connections with each other, but are not particularly compelling in speaking to the connections between concepts and people.  This not the process for which teachers are trained.  Of course, people have to make these connections for themselves (and the best a professor can do is create an environment that encourages this), but that requires that people know themselves better, and that was not why they are taking this class. It is a challenge.”)   See Canonical Content & Personal Meaning (presentation at the International Association for Cognitive Education and Psychology,  Greenberg 2021)  

ART and SCIENCE  [i]  We use ART and SCIENCE as catchwords for distinctive but overlapping configurations of cognitive functions, often involving competition between neuronal elements. [Localized and distributed coordinated processes in the brain and body often have more-or-less privileged connections with each other that make specific aspects of INPUT « INTEGRATION « OUTPUT more-or-less likely.]  ARTISTS and SCIENTISTS (and we are all more-or-less both) are highly motivated to make the contents of mind understandable (both to themselves and to others). see A&O notes on the Art and Science of Art and Science and W.I.B. Beveridge-meets-William-Wordsworth

PROCESS & PRODUCT  Considering ART and ARTIFACT begs comparison with a larger construct: that of PROCESS and PRODUCT  (“… we always seem to fixated on the more-or-less enduring PRODUCT when in fact it is the constitutionally ephemeral PROCESS that drives static states from one thing to another.  The experience of continuing, dynamic  change that defines PROCESS may, in fact, be where we should be focused–it can imply a product, but that is more like a snapshot of something in eternal motion.  An opportunity for reflection about the process?   And resonant with our newest understandings of physics at its deepest levels, nothing is static!”   Are these all perspectives on the familiar (but no less true) platitude that “the journey is the destination“?.





(arguably, all meaning derives from connections)

resonance  (like intuition) reflects the connections we “feel” by means that are not obvious 

Perspective on the growth of meaning can be enhanced by keeping an A&O DIARY


 Art and Science of Teaching 

and the unfolding of ART & ORGANISM

(A&O (like life itself)  consists of nested collections of related fragments — see the uses of Aphorism)



IS IT OTHER THAN A MORE-OR-LESS SUCCESSFUL EXPLORATION of ways that DISCIPLINES (and the nested collections of related fragments therein) ARE CONNECTED to each other? Or how they may be put into each other’s service, or how they may even divide or merge with each other?



(are ATTITUDES a kind of BIAS?)


we recognize that all the cognitive elements of SAPIENCE and SENTIENCE –thought and feeling– are each, always, more-or-less in play –in fact, co-constitute all action we manifest. 





NOTES and Useful Links  


    • PHILOSOPHY.    “Philosophy is not the reflection of a pre-existing truth, but, like art, the act of bringing truth into being.” … “We witness every minute the miracle of related experience, and yet nobody knows better than we do how this miracle is worked, for we are ourselves this network of relationships” (Maurice Merleau-Ponty (1945)
    • The Phenomenological Attitude
    • Understanding each other:  “language is integrated with, and in couagenstant interplay with, an incredibly broad range of neural processes.” It structures and is structured by the brain (see Boroditsky’s brief editorial on  Language and the Brain )
    • ADAPTATIONS—cope with change.   A trait that contributes to fitness is an adaptation, BUT the term also refers to the process by which such traits come about.  Its several canonical definitions are all unified by the idea of compensation for change, either short-term (such as a stimulus or life experience) or long term adaptations (such as Other (complementary) definitions are: “an adaptation is an anatomical, physiological, or behavioral trait that contributes to an individual’s ability to survive and reproduce (“fitness”) in competition with conspecifics in the environment in which it evolved” (Williams, G. 1966. Adaptation and Natural Selection Princeton). and “a regulatory or advantageous change in response to an environmental stress by an individual or by a species in the course of evolution”   For A&O, I think the most eloquent and concise definition is by Rappaport (1971) “The processes by which organisms or groups of organisms maintain homeostasis in and among themselves in the face of both short-term environmental fluctuations and long-term changes in the composition and structure of their environments.”  
    • Coping strategies, of course, depend on context: what is the stressor, selection pressure, with which we must cope.   In a given context we must ask WHAT IS NORMAL?  
    • NORMAL
    • DYSFUNCTION when coping mechanisms are inadequate, we can speak of DYSFUNCTION  (MALADAPTATION?) 
    • PATHOLOGY by definition, maladaptive (doing more harm than good) and informed by Aristotle’s Golden Mean: the nearer the endpoints along a continuum of a trait, the more likely its expression would be (by definition) extraordinary, possibly dysfunctional. PPT  


EXPERIENCE and its REPRESENTATION: (this is what art and science are all about)  perceptions, conceptions — ideas and states of mind in the concentric rings of their respective contexts [inviting the idea of recursion].   We might see but not understand: look into AGNOSIA


ART  (expressive and receptive) 

The EXPRESSION of ART–its CREATION–and the RECEPTION of ART–the perception of ART–can have a potent positive effect on the individuals in whom it is manifest.  But aruably it is not the art as an object or performance, but the PROCESS leading to that object that has the positive effect.  When the artifact of that process is deeply affecting, it may be because of the inferences about the processes leading to an artifact and their resonance within the person experiencing it.  

ART can be the great facilitator of MEANING:  Mark Johnson, whose writing is a great resource for understanding how our mind and body co-constitute understanding and meaning  is…   “following in the footsteps of John Dewey, who argued in Art as Experience (1934) that art matters because it provides heightened, intensified, and highly integrated experiences of meaning, using all of our ordinary resources of meaning-making.  To discover how meaning works, we should turn first to gesture, social interaction, ritual, ritual, and art, and only later to linguistic communication.…”  Johnson pursues “…Dewey’s insight that the arts are a primary means by which we grasp, criticize, and transform meanings. … [he ends up] with the idea that philosophy will matter to people only to the extent that it is built on a visceral connection to our world.” (Johnson 2007).  [from A&O webnotes on CONNECTIONS]

ART is essentially and dynamically intertwined with the organism that creates it and the organism that perceives and appreciates it.  IT involves communications within and between these organisms … processes that can be understood in large part by means of DEEP ethology, a scientific approach to understanding behavior, including cognition and consciousness. Art defined by EH Gombrich

WHAT IS THE SUBJECT MATTER FOR ART?  (What is not?)  Knowing the power of art to affect us, social/cultural forces emphasize the phenomena and ideas that may be selected for us to internalize and affect our cognition:  heroic acts, romantic, provocative.   

    • MUNDANE ... Emersonian appreciation of the potential in any thing to transcend mere appearance:  for example, “included in Leonard Cohen’s sublime “Suzanne”:  “look among the garbage and the flowers / there are heroes in the seaweed,” and in the iconic “Hallelujah”: “There’s a blaze of light / In every word / It doesn’t matter which you heard / The holy or the broken Hallelujah”.   Here is where “Found Art” comes into its own: see below  … And Emerson sings to us: “‘T’is not in the high stars alone, / or in the cup of budding flowers, / or in the redbreast’s mellow tone, / or in the bow that smiles in showers, / But in the mud and scum of things / here alway, alway something sings.”  (from
    • PROPOGANDA:  a type of politically-charged art that seeks to promote one political or cultural idea with a view to suppressing or damaging competitive views . see, e.g., MoMA glossary and see an exhibit at the National Archives: 


    • AESTHETIC EXPERIENCE.  Read AESTHETIC EXPERIENCE: C:\Users\Greenberg\Dropbox\NEW NOTES\A&O\A&O – AESTHETIC EXPERIENCE.docx  ( Link) (which includes For example, Marković (2012)[i] definition of aesthetic experience in terms of: fascination (high arousal and attention), appraisal of symbolism (high cognitive engagement), and a feeling of unity with the object of fascination and appraisal.)  …  and Dissanayake’s view of “going beyond”)[ii]
    • Neurologist’s history of aesthetis to contextualize his research: read introduction to 
  • ART and ARTISTRY in INDIVIDUALS: THE ARTIST  … expressive and receptive processes and their interactions…  and the critical role of sociality (in : art-in-the-brain-experience-and-expression/ (van Leeuwen et al. 2022).   “Here we present the viewpoint that art essentially engages the social brain, by demonstrating how art processing maps onto the social brain connectome—the most comprehensive diagram of the neural dynamics that regulate human social cognition to date. We start with a brief history of the rise of neuroaesthetics as the scientific study of art perception and appreciation, in relation to developments in contemporary art practice and theory during the same period.”
  • .


  • ART involves an emphasis on a uniquely creative mode of communication (and implicit communion). WE EXPRESS (create)–WE COMMUNICATE (by means of a medium)–WE RECEIVE (our first acts of communication are always within/with ourselves) [see: COMMUNICATION – within and between levels of organization], necessarily involving TRANSLATION at every step (between levels) and EKPHRASIS.



    • PHYSIOLOGY  (strongly implicit in its many connections to mental health)
    • SAFETY (gaining deep insight into aspects of nature of potential predatory or protective use) 
    • INDIVIDUATION  (self-knowledge that follows from working to represent implicit ideas) (what is the self?)
    • SOCIALITY  (communications with others)
    • SELF-ACTUALIZATION (reproductive advantage, legacy) 


DEEP ETHOLOGY of ART (art can be considered as a process, the product of which is an artifact.  It is  a behavioral pattern which  –like all behavioral patterns– is manifest by an organism (or population) because it is (or has been) to their advantage to do so. And like all behavioral patterns, art is more fully understood when reviewed in terms of the DEEP perspectives of ethology, thus considering simultaneously its possible origins and future possibilities.)  (from A&O web notes on ART and ARTIFACT | What factors affect how we value art?

PATTERNS –their creation and recognition are significant elements in human cognition as well as aesthetic experience

VALIDITY & RELIABILITY of STRUCTURE–FUNCTION correlations in the BRAIN: NS Editorial: neuroscience-wrongs-will-make-a-right/ then read: hidden-depths-brain-science-is-drowning-in-uncertainty/


QUOTE, ART and SCIENCE:  quotes from Constable and Zola  and the great Claude Bernard: “ART is I, SCIENCE is WE” (quoted in Bulletin of New York Academy of Medicine, Vol. IV 1928) 

READING SCIENCE is OBJECTIVE, SCIENTISTS are NOT (Rothman on Strevans in NYr 2020)

READING Dissanayake on “ART” meaning “making special” (“selective attention”)

  • BEAUTY   
    • ART in the BRAIN  neuroaesthetics & sociality
      • “BRINGING the OBJECTIVITY of SCIENCE to the SUBJECTIVITY of ART” sounds challenging, but can be undertaken if we go sufficiently deeply into how art actually works within and between individuals. [The echo of DUALITY is not accidental]  There is temptation to define things in terms of their preceding correlates, as though they were causes.    To be studied objectively, “beauty” needs an agreed-upon definition–something not often found between researchers.   Beauty defined in different ways  activates different parts of the brain:    Look at a meta-analysis of brain imaging studies that indicate two distinctive kinds of beauty:  “Seeking the “Beauty Center” in the Brain: A Meta-Analysis of fMRI Studies of Beautiful Human  Faces and Visual Art” Hu Chuan-Peng et al. (2020)   
      • This touches on a persistent issue that has immense influence on the structure of research endeavours as well as their interpretation which is tinged with highly politicized issues of great cultural significance as well as every-day thinking: see notes on NATURE/NURTURE of biological and psychological traits–a concern at every level of organization from cells to societies    
    • Where biology articulates with art: For example, what is found beautiful: They say beauty is in the eye of the beholder. But how one’s genes or one’s environment evokes this phenomenon of consciousness has long been a question for scientists. Although some research suggests that a preference for certain physical traits, such as height or muscular build, may be encoded in our genes, a new study finds it’s our individual life experiences that lead us to find one face more attractive than another:   a new study finds it’s our individual life experiences that lead us to find one face more attractive than another. To get some closure on the nature versus nurture debate in human aesthetics, researchers asked 547 pairs of identical twins and 214 pairs of same-gender fraternal twins to view 200 faces and rate them on a scale of one to seven, with one being the least attractive and seven the most attractive. A group of 660 nontwins then completed the same survey. If genes were more involved in facial preference, identical twins would have had similar ratings; if the influence of a familial environment carried more weight, fraternal twins would have also answered similarly. However, most twins’ scores were quite different from one another, suggesting that something else was at play. The researchers suspect that it’s an individual’s life experiences that guide our opinions of attractiveness. The findings, reported today in Current Biology, build on earlier work by the same team that shows the ability to recognize faces is largely a genetic trait. The research is ongoing, and you can participate, too. Just complete the facial preference survey through the researchers’ website at:  Posted in: Brain & Behavior  doi:10.1126/science.aad4653 
    • Beauty in art and mathematics activate same areas of brain  : “Mathematicians have long likened the experience of mathematical beauty to that of visual and musical beauty. Now scientists in England and Scotland have determined that despite the abstract nature of mathematics, mathematical beauty is linked to activity in the same region of the brain as beauty from sensory sources.” (Article  Figures & SI  Info & Metrics   PDF
  • REAL versus IDEAL 
    • To EXPERIENCE ART is to go beyond the immediate needs of biology: to take something which has become (or been made) “special” (Dissanyake).
      • The cognitive implications are huge: to the extent we appreciate a specific work of art we have found a sort of communion with an artist (“The antennae of our race”—Ezra Pound called artists) and likely to see things beyond the bounds of mere habit.  In this sense, an artist is also the canary in the coal mine: early warning systems for movements into potentially dangerous territory. (Danger and Beauty together can evoke the “sublime“.) It also implies possessing the  resources, such as leisure, to explore and can thus be seen as a potentially attractive trait in sexual selection.   This MAY be an element in the many species that work to manifest their value as a reproductive partner: bower birds to peacocks. Observations that tend to validate the evolutionary argument for the emergence of art are at the A&O Page: NEEDS MET BY ART.  (arguably, needs when met ultimately serve inclusive fitness, most conspicuously when they are therapeutic) 
        • BUT experience is  also deeply affected by congenital and acquired BIAS … sensory, cognitive, even perceived morality of the artist.  
      • The EXPERIENCE of AWE and THE SUBLIME.   
    • QUALITIES of  the EXPERIENCE of ART (=
    • SCHOOLS of ART?


CONSCIOUSNESS   (defined & including “intuition” and “panpsychism”)   [Dropbox notes on “self-reflection”]   

  • STATES of CONSCIOUSNESS:   Presuming neurotypicality, the competing, coordinating, cooperating, modules of mind readjust their relative activities and interactions creating any of  number of alternative states of consciousness; for example
    • FLOW
      • The concept of flow or optimal mental processing, is defined as a state of mind in which one is immersed in ongoing activity with seemingly effortless mental energy.  This is associated with an awareness of congruence between incoming information and our goals (Csíkszentmihályi 19751990).   Error-detection at the level of the organism is minimal or suppressed and often involves a distorted sense of time and a loss of self-consciousness (Csíkszentmihályi 1975; Csíkszentmihályi and Rathunde 1993).” 




CONSCIOUSNESS by Pinker (TIME 2007) brief summary for TIME magazine

PARABLE- Two Monks Saw Some Goldfish “how do I know?” …






[…”The relation, then, between epistêmê and technê in ancient philosophy offers an interesting contrast with our own notions about theory (pure knowledge) and (experience-based) practice. (Stanford Encyclopedia Philosophy)]

COMMUNICATION (as, for example between artist and audience) can utilize any medium  we have the sensory capacity to detect.

In your own communicating, WHY should anyone be interested in your subject?  Does it influence their lives? Does it hace social costs or benefits?  If you present something about psychological or biological causes or consequences of some phenomenon (disorder, war, pandemic, beautiful art or scenery) why should we be concerned.  Might they be subconsciously (or consciously) monetizing or politicising the phenomena? —thinking of a phenomenon (a disease, a tree, working on or appreciating a work of art) in terms of cash value.  There are a multitude of more-or-less likely entry points into one’s deeper consciousness–onverging or diverging or interacting pathways.      

Your insightful, important idea may be neglected:  For example in science. There is a general principle in creative science that chemist Gunther Stent identified as that speaks to why some important discoveries have gone neglected: the creator of the work did not help the audience connect it to pre-existing beliefs – it was too novel and the path of understanding it for the general public was not prepared!   The poet Coleridge said, : “… every great and original writer, in proportion as he is great and original, must himself create the taste by which he is to be relished.”   In other words, you must prepare your audience…  You should read the Stent essay if you have time and creative ambitions: (this connects to the dynamic tension Thomas Kuhn identified between tradition and innovation.  This likely works in your own brain all the time as you experience new things.


RESONANCE notes – amongst the ways elements can communicate with each other is resonance.  It is also a powerful metaphor for things that may be connected, but not in ways that are obvious. 

MEDIA:  Potential media for artistic expression are indexed by Wikipedia; beyond the traditional media of familiar art forms (painting, music, language, performance (theatre, opera, dance, song), consider EARTH, AIR, FIRE, and WATER and even SELF as a medium of art (as in performance: acting, drama)

COLLABORATIONS with LIVING NATURE:  Nature is always a raw material for inspiration and execution, but some artists develop a deep understanding of natural processes (e.g., Earthworks or Land art, above).  Understanding the lives and behavior of other species, however, may go even further (or at least be more inviting?) …. (read “How Animals See Themselves”)


Nature, natural phenomena, and Earthworks


 AURAL – AUDITORY stimuli —


VISUAL stimuli



see Language and the Brain  

SIMPLICITY and COMPLEXITYrealizing seems easier than knowing … is that a hallmark of validity??  are SIMPLICITY and COMPLEXITYRelated to holism and reductionism







    • NEEDS and MOTIVATION  considering needs, evolutionary and physiological thinkings is particularly relevant.
    • Physiology, the proximate need –in the aggregate regarded as HEALTH.  
      • At the “base” of a hierarchy of needs is PHYSIOLOGY:  The core need for any organism is its machinery for extracting energy from the environment and channeling it in ways that serve its life–  
      • Dynamic balance, homeostasis. Needs that are or may be compromised can evoke a stress response
      • POST on health-enhancing effects of art 
    • Physiology,  
      • STRESS   … involving the real or perceived possibility of not being able to meet a real or perceived need.  Stress energizes the processes that might act to mitigate it.   [“What man actually needs is not a tensionless state but rather the striving and struggling for some goal worthy of him. What he needs is not the discharge of tension at any cost, but the call of a potential meaning waiting to be fulfilled by him.”–Viktor FranklMan’s Search for Meaning (1946)
    • TRANSCENDENCE     Transcendence and art … we are always “going beyond”  EUDAIMONIA appears to go beyond mere needs.
    •  Is there a “NEED TO KNOW?”; Aristotle, infovory … 

    • NEED for ART: including Maslow

    • But in our pusuit of NEEDS, we must know ourselves and do nothing in excess.  [self-knowledge … why is this important? how deep do we need to go? “Knowledge is Power.”)  “All of us have felt the pleasure of acquiring information—a view of a dramatic landscape, a conversation with a friend, or even a magazine article, people-watching, can all be profoundly gratifying. But why is this so? What makes these experiences pleasurable? // We believe that the enjoyment of such experiences is deeply connected to an innate hunger for information, connectedness, meaning: Human neuro cognition has enabled beings that are designed to be “infovores.” It’s a craving that begins with a simple preference for certain types of stimuli, then proceeds to more sophisticated levels of perception and cognition that draw on associations the brain makes with previous experiences. When the hunger becomes even moderately starved, boredom sets in.”  (Biederman, Irving & Vessel, Edward A. 2006)  Key Word: INFOVORE…  


  • THE PHYSIOLOGY of NEEDS:   How NEEDS and STRESS are related [A real-or-perceived challenge to meeting a real-or-perceived NEED evokes more-or-less of stress response (which “energizes” organism’s resources (motivational systems) to cope with challenge and restore homeostasis]  (Exemplified in the health  consequences  of LONELINESS 

DEEP ETHOLOGY manifests an ETHOLOGICAL ATTITUDE: an approach to discovery and interpretation. The INTEGRATIVE BIOLOGY of BEHAVIOR involves the coordinated activities of four broad areas (as biologists study them), and how they are brought to bear on BEHAVIOR: 

Experimentation: natural and artificial; Ethologically Informed Design


DESCRIBE –when you cannot say more about the how or why about a phenomenon, a potent way of making critical progress is th DESCRIBE THE HELL OUT IT! Before we interpret or analyze our experience of behavior (our own or that of others) we must DESCRIBE it … using your “scaffolding” of art and science to describe has the extraordinary–and sometimes surprising effect of conveying insight and understanding… 

The intimacy with the source of inspiration (and indeed all the elements that enable the processes that converge in the artist’s act) is a kind of love.  Look now at the A&O notes on love and the place of intimacy in its fullest expression (harking back to our oft-quoted idea, “to fully understand, you must first love” (paraphrasing Goethe). 


WE tend to apply the DEEP perspective  at the level of manifest behavioral patterns, but it applies at ALL LEVELS of ORGANIZATION: proximate causes and consequences, (mainly physiology) ultimate causes and consequences (mainly evolutionary biology), always manifest in more-or-less intimate internal and external environments (mainly ecology) and in constant flux (mainly development).  Successively higher LEVELS of ORGANIZATION may manifest EMERGENT PHENOMENA

CHANGE (perpetual disintegration and renewal; from the open- and closed- genetic programs of life to the cosmos; Proximate and ultimate causation in ethology refers to individual development and evolution. (Britannica)


  • Does CHANGE manifest an ESSENTIAL TENSION?  “In the late 1950s, Thomas Kuhn presented an analysis of what he called “the essential tension between tradition and innovation”; an analysis that later became the core of Kuhn’s phase model of scientific development in terms of normal science and revolutions. He focused on the apparent paradox that, on the one hand, normal research is a highly convergent activity based upon a settled consensus, but, on the other hand, the ultimate effect of this tradition-bound work has invariably been to change the tradition.”
      • AT the cellular level of organizations: DEEP READING: excerpt on cell-turnover in humans
        • We have come to appreciate that the richest possible understanding of our organisms of interest involves the internal and external environmental  causes and consequences of behavior –the ECOLOGY in which it participates.  
    • HUMAN DEVELOPMENT The “Theory of Mind” is of particular interest because of its implications for the development of consciousness in human infant: … some clues emerge from the Mirror test.   
    • BRAIN DEVELOPMENT affects and is affected by experience … its processes are powerful metaphors to anchor our scaffolds and webs: Development of the lattice and tuning  by the environment.  including EMOTIONAL DEVELOPMENT:  “Principles of emotional brain circuit maturation” (Early-life environmental signals contribute to how the brain handles reward, stress, and fear) by Birnie & Baram (2022) SCIENCE  2 Jun 2022 Vol 376Issue 6597 pp. 10551056.  DOI: 10.1126/science.abn4016  in A&O-DEEP-DEVELOPMENT.  video from Harvard:  Then read Oliver Sacks’ (1990) essay on Neurology and the Soul for a humane multi-dimensional perspective.


READINGS: Early human brain development and Brain development and the role of experience and watch video from Harvard:

NEUROLOGY — start with Oliver Sacks reading, “Neurology and the Soul”

    • the BRAIN is at the center of our interests in understanding how communications works within and between our organs (and even our endosymbiotic organisms, biota) as well as the external environment.  The brain resembles a single organ, but it is a constellation of multiple functional units that are integrated with each other at several different levels of organization. It evokes a sense of a MOBILE of many carefully balanced elements such as an  Alexander Calder artwork  :  A very broad and compelling sense of the interaction of multiple units working together comes from considering the two hemispheres of the brain, understood after they are separated from each other:  Read Wolman’s news article from the journal NATURE (it includes a good account of split brain research that provided these insights)… (including comments by a split brain patient and an old (1970’s) short video of early research nicely explained–and not much has changed)


      • MUDDLE ALERT!  The perils of “localizationalist” views of brain function: The “narrow localization” of Broca and other nineteenth century neurologists, who likely enjoyed the waves of popular enthusiasm for phrenology .   Allan Schore presented Hughlings Jackson’s “view of how the brain operates … to emphasize the fact that the problem of emotion, [for example], cannot be understood with a localizationist perspective, one that still dominates neuroscience.  … Along these lines, in the context of cognitive neuroscience, Goldberg (1995) argues convincingly for a paradigmatic shift from modular to interactive brain systems (1996, p. 34).      

    • READ The Brain’s Dark Energy (Raichle 20026
    • COGNITIVE NEUROSCIENCE: collection of excerpts that focus on how this is understood
    • Brain development involves both highly programmed (“closed genetic program”) change and flexibility: neuroplasticity, generally in response to situational and environmental influences
    • CIRCUITS and CENTERS that orchestrate specific behavioral patterns are a primary target of the physiological ethologist–indeed, anyone seeking to understand the proximate causes and consequences of behavior (the physiology part)?  Any behavioral patterns sufficiently well described (the ethology emphasis) becomes the basis for  search for its causes and consequences.  AS AN EXAMPLE, PARENTAL BEHAVIOR. (see  DEEP ETHOLOGY – BRAIN notes) 
    • PARTS of the BRAIN and their CONNECTIONS (optogenetics & connectome project)
    • THE BRAIN IS NOT ALONE:  behavior (including consciousness) is NOT the brain alone: this is explored by philosophers and researchers that speak of EMBODIED COGNITION –the integration of the BODY and the BRAIN in the creation of MEANING. But further, integration of the unseen living symbiotic elements within us (such as our “microbiome”)–as organisms we are also ecosystems. 


§  neurofiction essay (Gary Marcus recent essay,  “Neuroscience Fiction,”  in the New Yorker (Dec 2, 2012)

READINGS:  “In Their Own Worlds by Sanford Schwartz in NYRB 7 June 2018;   The Electric Pencil: Using Art to Diagnose the Artist (Scheftel 2011)Hospital in Rio (Hoston 2004) ravidrin-on-psychiatric-art-in-pysche-2021




  • BELIEF—TRUTH | KNOWLEDGE—REALIZING (why we may believe in things we cannot personally experience; extrapolation, interpolation, coherence and correspondence)
    • Empiricism/sensory | affect/emotion
  • MEMORY.    MEMORY is the essence of COGNITION:  (“MEMORY,  needless to  say,  is  critical  to  cognition.  Without memory, present circumstances have no context; the detection of change is impossible. Without the ability to detect change, the decision to alter behavior can only be random, haphazard. Without  memory,  learning  of  any  kind  is  impossible.  While cognitive scientists now accept that discoveries concerning the molecular basis of memory in the marine invertebrate Aplysia are relevant to the study of human memory (Kandel, 2006), they (to say nothing of microbiologists) have yet to connect the dots with memory processes in prokaryotes.”
      • “USELESS ATTRACTOR” is a nickname for a focus which in itself has no particular meaning and with no previously obvious connections that suddenly triggers a redintegrative cascade of otherwise apparently unconnected and otherwise useless snips of knowledge. The cascade (and we can here apply the metaphor, “angle of repose“–particularly as it applies to an avalanche) may have had a coherent outcome suddenly glimpsed or intuited. 
      • (Attractor [xv] is a convenient but not precise metaphor).  The coherence may only be apparent OR TOT (“tip of the tongue phenomenon”) OR FOK (“feeling of knowing phenomenon”). I often feel that a very important solution to a problem is (as Franz Wright put it once, a “Radiantly obvious thing I need to say, though quite what that might be escapes me at the moment, as it always has, and always will.”)
      • Synecdoche and redintegration—trigger experience, the attractor of hidden dreams, infusing previous experience with new meaning and putting it in the service of coherence, validating a new realization[xii]—all things are connected—
      • “not quite” memory(?):  tip-of-tongue—Feeling of Knowing–  INTUITION    Intuition presentation
      • FILLING IN: extrapolation[xiii] and interpolation
    • Excerpt on brain processes of filling in


    •  [OUTPUT/ to memory or action]






A&O READINGS (read about readings)











Position in notes collection not yet determined:

·        RULES
·        USELESS KNOWLEDGE. All the consequences of a specific trait may never be known, but the prodigal diversity of consequences is revealed and open to further thought with the support of systems such as DEEP ethology. For example,  The Usefulness of Useless Knowledge [xiv]   Not only have extraordinary breakthroughs emerged from what seemed like idle curiosity but there are multiple CONNECTIONS.
·        Both the PROCESSES and the PRODUCTS of CURIOSITY move the human race forward [hopefully the urge to CONTROL and EXPLOIT will be better coordinated with the urge to PROTECT and RESPECT or we will be swept away in the failed trophic cascade.]   (Just as paranoia might be adaptive at a battle front and devastating other places, our adversarial urges towards nature were adaptive for the small populations of ancestors in hostile environments, but not in contemporary environments.)
·       Example.  compare to the tension between INDIVIDUATION and SOCIALIZATION—in that each is vital at one level of the NEED HIERARCHY and devastating at others. (see Listening Angels and A&O notes on Uniqueness) then read about the difference between loneliness and solitude (then look in on  loneliness and longing)(reading on the History of Loneliness)


[i] Marković, Slobodan (2012) Components of aesthetic experience: aesthetic fascination, aesthetic appraisal, and aesthetic emotion i-Perception. 2012; 3(1): 1–17.          Published online 2012 Jan 12. doi:  10.1068/i0450aap  PMCID: PMC3485814   complete article at:    This article has been cited by other articles in PMC.

Go to:

Abstract.  In this paper aesthetic experience is defined as an experience qualitatively different from everyday experience and similar to other exceptional states of mind. Three crucial characteristics of aesthetic experience are discussed: fascination with an aesthetic object (high arousal and attention), appraisal of the symbolic reality of an object (high cognitive engagement), and a strong feeling of unity with the object of aesthetic fascination and aesthetic appraisal. In a proposed model, two parallel levels of aesthetic information processing are proposed. On the first level two sub-levels of narrative are processed, story (theme) and symbolism (deeper meanings). The second level includes two sub-levels, perceptual associations (implicit meanings of object’s physical features) and detection of compositional regularities. Two sub-levels are defined as crucial for aesthetic experience, appraisal of symbolism and compositional regularities. These sub-levels require some specific cognitive and personality dispositions, such as expertise, creative thinking, and openness to experience. Finally, feedback of emotional processing is included in our model: appraisals of everyday emotions are specified as a matter of narrative content (eg, empathy with characters), whereas the aesthetic emotion is defined as an affective evaluation in the process of symbolism appraisal or the detection of compositional regularities.

In this paper aesthetic experience is defined as an experience qualitatively different from everyday experience and similar to other exceptional states of mind. Three crucial characteristics of aesthetic experience are discussed: fascination with an aesthetic object (high arousal and attention), appraisal of the symbolic reality of an object (high cognitive engagement), and a strong feeling of unity with the object of aesthetic fascination and aesthetic appraisal. In a proposed model, two parallel levels of aesthetic information processing are proposed. On the first level two sub-levels of narrative are processed, story (theme) and symbolism (deeper meanings). The second level includes two sub-levels, perceptual associations (implicit meanings of object’s physical features) and detection of compositional regularities. Two sub-levels are defined as crucial for aesthetic experience, appraisal of symbolism and compositional regularities. These sub-levels require some specific cognitive and personality dispositions, such as expertise, creative thinking, and openness to experience. Finally, feedback of emotional processing is included in our model: appraisals of everyday emotions are specified as a matter of narrative content (eg, empathy with characters), whereas the aesthetic emotion is defined as an affective evaluation in the process of symbolism appraisal or the detection of compositional regularities.

Keywords: aesthetic experience, fascination, appraisal, emotion, narrative, composition

1. Introduction

Aesthetic experience is one of the most important but also one of the most vague poorly specified concepts in the psychology of art and experimental aesthetics. The purpose of the present paper is to provide a more explicit definition of this phenomenon and to propose a tentative model of underlying motivational, cognitive, and emotional processes and dispositions.

Generally, aesthetic experience can be defined as a special state of mind that is qualitatively different from the everyday experience. According to Cupchik and Winston (1996), aesthetic experience is a psychological process in which the attention is focused on the object while all other objects, events, and everyday concerns are suppressed. Similarly, Ognjenović (1997) defined aesthetic experience as a special kind of subject-object relationship in which a particular object strongly engages the subject’s mind, shadowing all other surrounding objects and events. In both definitions, aesthetic situations and objects of aesthetic interest are specified as fundamentally different from everyday situations and objects of everyday use. Perhaps the best example of this contrast is Picasso’s famous Bull’s Head, an artistic construction made of a bicycle seat and handlebars. Seen from the everyday (pragmatic) perspective, the handlebars and the seat are experienced as parts of a bicycle with specific functions (for seating and governing). Also, as with all other objects of everyday use, they can be judged as more or less beautiful, elegant, well designed, and the like. However, only when they lose their everyday pragmatic meaning (as bicycle parts) and transcend into the new symbolic level of reality (combination into a new whole, a bull’s head), does the aesthetic experience emerge.

According to Apter (1984) the distinctive feature of aesthetic experience is that it is not goal directed (ie, pragmatic), but focused more upon the activity itself (ie, self-rewarding). In their neuroimaging studies Cupchik and collaborators (Cupchik et al 2009) have shown that distinct cortical areas were activated when the observers were oriented to the pragmatic and aesthetic aspects of the same paintings. They found that pragmatic orientation was associated with the higher activation of the right fusiform gyrus (this area was associated with the perception of specific categories of objects, including faces; cf Kanwisher et al 1997; Martin et al 1996; McCarthy et al 1997), whereas the aesthetic orientation corresponded to a higher activation of the left and right insula (these areas were involved in emotional experience; cf Paradiso et al 1999; Teasdale et al 1999; Lane et al 1997) and left lateral pre-frontal cortex (this area plays a role in the cognitive control and the higher-order self-referential processes; cf Burgess et al 2007).

In our opinion aesthetic experience does not belong to the same class of phenomena as aesthetic preference, liking, the judgment of beauty, and so on. Unlike aesthetic experience, which is an exceptional state of mind, liking and the judgment of beauty belong to the domain of everyday experience with everyday objects (eg, human faces, bodies, clothing, buildings, etc). However, beauty can be a generator of aesthetic experience, but only if it transcends its biological, psychological, and social functions and gets new ‘aesthetic’ meanings in the symbolic (‘virtual’) reality. Namely, in aesthetic experience the object of beauty is not seen as a tool for the satisfaction of bodily needs (eg, appetitive and mating functions; cf Ramachandran and Hirstein 1999), but rather as a provocation of the higher level pleasures, such as pleasures of the mind (cf Kubovy 1999). In other words, to be a part of an aesthetic experience, beauty must transcend from its extrinsic (pragmatic) to intrinsic (aesthetic) values—that is, a beautiful object must become an object of beauty. According to this, even ugly things can elicit aesthetic experience (eg, aesthetic fascination with deformation, monstrous, grotesque, morbid, horrible, and other kinds of ugliness; cf Eco 20042007).

In order to specify the distinctive characteristics of aesthetic experience, it will be useful to consider other similar phenomena of the exceptional or transcendental states of mind. In the following paragraphs these phenomena will be shortly presented.

“Aesthetic experience is similar to the phenomenon referred to by Czikszentmihalyi’s concept of flow or optimal mental processing (Csíkszentmihályi 19751990). Flow is defined as an effortless mental energy flow caused by the awareness of congruence between incoming information and our goals. During this state of mind people are intensively immersed in what they are doing, with strong involvement in the process of the activity. Similarly to aesthetic experience, in this mental state attention is highly concentrated on a particular object or activity, which induces a distortion of the sense of time and a loss of self-consciousness (Csíkszentmihályi 1975; Csíkszentmihályi and Rathunde 1993).”

Aesthetic experience is also closely related to Maslow’s concept of peak experience (Maslow 1968). In peak experiences, attention is fully engaged and focused on a particular object, while the object is seen as detached from its everyday purpose and usefulness. Like in the state of flow, the person is self-transcending, self-forgetful, and disoriented in time and space. Generally speaking, peak experiences can be identified in all states of mental focusing on meditation, such as mindfulness (Kabat-Zinn 1998; Teasdale 1999). Also, it is close to spiritual transcendence, which is the feeling of connectedness and unity with other people, life, nature, and the like (Piedmont 1999). Like in peak experience, in spiritual transcendence persons focus the world from a larger perspective, losing the immediate sense of time and space.

Aesthetic experience can be associated with the concept of absorption proposed by Tellegan and Atkinson (1974). Absorption is the disposition of having episodes of amplified attention that fully engage the subject’s mental (perceptual, representational) and executive (motor) resources. For instance, absorption can emerge when a person is watching movies or theatre shows, reading novels, listening to music, observing paintings, and the like. In these situations he or she loses awareness of the surrounding environment and becomes fully engaged in the symbolic (virtual) world, experiencing himself or herself as a part of this virtual world. While Tellegan and Atkinson (1974) were interested in the individual differences in absorption, some studies were focused on its stimulus constraints. For instance, Troscianko and collaborators (Troscianko et al in press [this issue]) found that big screens improved the viewer’s feeling of being immersed, or feeling of ‘presence’, in a movie. The term presence was defined as the illusion of being ‘in the movie’ (ie, virtual aesthetic world) rather than in the cinema (ie, real environment).

Koestler (1970) put aesthetic experience in the framework of creative processes emerging in art, science, humour, and playing. According to Koestler, the creative act happens when apparently incompatible conceptual frames are associated in a completely new whole, as when, for instance, the bicycle handlebars and seat are brought together in the Bull’s Head. Koestler held that in the arts ‘incompatible’ frames are juxtaposed (tolerance to ambiguity), in science they are fused into a new larger synthesis (apparently conflicting data become concordant within a new general theoretical paradigm), and in humour and jokes they are reversed (unexpected transitions from one to another framework). These processes correspond to a ‘self-transcending’ tendency in art and a ‘self-assertive’ tendency in humour, whereas in science these two tendencies are balanced. Finally, these states are accompanied with exceptional feelings, such as the so-called Aha experience in intellectual insights and scientific discoveries (also known as the Eureka experience), Ah experience in art appreciation, and Ha-ha experience in humour (cf Koestler 1970).

1.1. Aesthetic experience: summary of preliminary definitions

In the preliminary definitions of aesthetic experience and similar phenomena, three characteristics can be identified as crucial and distinctive.

      • (1)

The first characteristic refers to the motivational, orientational or attentive aspect of aesthetic experience. During the aesthetic experience persons are in the state of intense attention engagement and high vigilance; they are strongly focused on and fascinated with a particular object. They lose their self-consciousness, the awareness of the surrounding environment, and the sense of time.

      • (2)

The second characteristic refers to the cognitive, that is, semantic, symbolic, and imaginative aspect of aesthetic experience: a person appraises the aesthetic objects and events as parts of a symbolic or ‘virtual’ reality and transcends their everyday uses and meanings (eg, we ‘see’ the bull’s head, not the bicycle parts; in theatre we are worried about the characters, not the actors, etc).

      • (3)

Finally, the third characteristic of aesthetic experience is affective. It refers to the exceptional emotional experience: a person has a strong and clear feeling of unity with the object of aesthetic fascination and aesthetic appraisal.

Continue article at 


[i] Art is I: Science is We

[i] “scientific abstraction liberates us from the slavery of facts” (Walter Kaufmann. 1958:93.  Critique of Religion and Philosophy.  Harper & Brothers Chapter 32 (Common Sense) –is artistic abstraction any different? has it led the way?

[ii] Aristotle, Metaphysics, Book I, 980a.21. 350 BC

[iii] Science consists of facts and theories. Facts and theories are born in different ways and are judged by different standards. Facts are supposed to be true or false. They are discovered by observers or experimenters. A scientist who claims to have discovered a fact that turns out to be wrong is judged harshly. One wrong fact is enough to ruin a hypothesis–even a career. (“The great tragedy of science—the slaying of a beautiful hypothesis by an ugly fact” –TH Huxley, Biogenesis and Abiogenesis 1870)

Theories have an entirely different status. They are free creations of the human mind, intended to connect facts and thereby provide an understanding of nature. Since our understanding is incomplete, theories are provisional. Theories are tools of understanding, and a tool does not need to be precisely true in order to be useful–they are more-or-less true, with plenty of room for disagreement. A scientist who invents a theory that turns out to be wrong is judged leniently. Mistakes are tolerated, so long as the culprit is willing to correct them when nature proves them wrong.  (Freeman Dyson’s review of   Brilliant Blunders: From Darwin to Einstein—Colossal Mistakes by Great Scientists That Changed Our Understanding of Life and the Universe by Mario Livio.   NYRB  Mar 6 2014:4-8)  Scientists–all of us–tell the best story we can with the best facts we have.  As facts are validated or discarded, the story changes. 

In this, science is at least partly described by  Bayesian inference: “… a method of statistical inference in which Bayes’ theorem is used to update the probability for a hypothesis as more evidence or information becomes available. Bayesian inference is an important technique in statistics, and especially in mathematical statistics. Bayesian updating is particularly important in the dynamic analysis of a sequence of data. Bayesian inference has found application in a wide range of activities, including scienceengineeringphilosophymedicinesport, and law. In the philosophy of decision theory, Bayesian inference is closely related to subjective probability, often called “Bayesian probability“. (

I find it appealing because it introduces “the notion of degrees of belief for the elements of a prospective hypothesis that an investigator has available, relative to others. Then, as new information emerges, one reevaluates the likelihood of that information being compatible with each original possibility.

In this respect, the Bayesians solve the Quine/Duhem paradox by rejecting the claim that in order to show that a hypothesis is mistaken, it is necessary to isolate that hypothesis from its set of auxiliary hypotheses. Instead, they assert that: it can be determined whether the set of auxiliary hypotheses should be rejected based on the degree to which those auxiliary hypotheses are believed to be true.” (Adapted from CREATIVE THOUGHT, EMOTION, AND IMAGINATION  January 30, 2019.  A post by John F. DeCarlo. (2019)  downloaded Thursday, September 26, 2019)

[iv] “Physicists have come to see that all their theories of natural phenomena, including the ‘laws’ they describe, are creations of the human mind; properties of our conceptual map of reality, rather than of reality itself.  This conceptual scheme is necessarily limited and approximate, as are all the scientific theories and ‘laws of nature’ it contains.  All natural phenomena are ultimately interconnected, and in order to explain any one of them we need to understand all the others, which is obviously impossible.  What makes science so successful is the discovery that approximations are possible. . . . This is the scientific method; all scientific theories and models are approximations of the true nature of things, but the error involved in the approximation is often small enough to make such an approach meaningful.” (Fritjof Capra 1975 in The Tao of Physics, p. 287).

[v] Biology occupies a position among the sciences at once marginal and central. Marginal because‑‑the living world constituting but a tiny and very “special” part of the universe‑‑it does not seem likely that the study of living beings will ever uncover general laws applicable outside the biosphere. But if the ultimate aim of the whole of science is indeed, as I believe, to clarify man’s relationship to the universe, then biology must be accorded a central position.” (Jacques Monod Chance and Necessity Alfred A. Knopf, New York, 1971, p xi.)

[vi] Infovory.  Biederman, Irving & Vessel, Edward A. (2006) Perceptual Pleasure and the Brain. American Scientist. 94(3), 247-253. [PDF] A neurobehavioral elaboration of Aristotle: “All men by nature desire to know.” (Metaphysics, Book 1)

[vii] Between the ages of twenty and forty we are engaged in the process of discovering who we are, which involves learning the difference between accidental limitations which it is our duty to outgrow and the necessary limitations of our nature beyond which we cannot trespass with impunity.”—W.H. Auden,1963)[vii]

[viii] Nothing in Biology Makes Sense Except in the Light of Evolution” (Theodosius Dobzhansky, 1973, in the American Biology Teacher, volume 35, pages 125-129. (Dobzhansky first published the title statement in a 1964 article in American Zoologist, “Biology, Molecular and Organismic”, to assert the importance of organismic biology in response to the challenge of the rising field of molecular biology” – Wikepedia

[ix] ADAPTATION—copes with change.   An adaptation is a trait that contributes to fitness, BUT the term also refers to the process by which that trait has come about. “The processes by which organisms or groups of organisms maintain homeostasis in and among themselves in the face of both short-term environmental fluctuations and long-term changes in the composition and structure of their environments.” (Rappaport, 1971) Its several definitions are all unified by the idea of compensation for change, either short-term (such as a stimulus or life experience) or long term adaptations (such as Other (complementary) definitions are: “an adaptation is an anatomical, physiological, or behavioral trait that contributes to an individual’s ability to survive and reproduce (“fitness”) in competition with conspecifics in the environment in which it evolved” (Williams, G. 1966. Adaptation and Natural Selection Princeton). and “a regulatory or advantageous change in response to an environmental stress by an individual or by a species in the course of evolution”


    • BIG QUESTION: as information trickles from our senses (or memories) through our brain, at what point is information transformed into consciousness? [I like comparing ice to water to mist and clouds]
    • Susan Greenfield speaks of the “collective activity of brain cells that expand or diminish from one moment to the next to accommodate varying depths of consciousness.” (quoted by Ananthaswamy – and in his terms, transient assemblies, size, and duration determined by external stimuli, levels of neurotransmitters and hormones in brain and body.)
  • (Bullock 1977) sensory adaptation is when receptors are less responsive to stimuli after long term exposure to them –e.g., the smell of food or the feel of clothes. and see exaptation (from A&O Glossary)  compare to habituation


[xi] Sensory Bias:  (pitch to the most responsive system in your audience (or avoid the systems of your adversaries)  – in the sense of “know your demographic” …”know your sense organs” )  (The sensory bias hypothesis (in mate selection) states that the preference for a trait evolves in a non-mating context and is then exploited by one sex in order to obtain more mating opportunities. The competitive sex evolves traits that exploit a pre-existing bias that the choosy sex already possesses.)

[xii] “Redintegration” is “the process of reconstructing an entire complex memory after observing or remembering only a part of it.”  Sometimes, only a tiny fragment of new information will suffice: “It is only necessary to behold the least fact or phenomenon, however familiar, from a point a hair’s breadth aside from our habitual path or routine, to be overcome, enchanted by its beauty and significance …” (Thoreau, Journal 8:44)

[xiii] There is a universal tendency among mankind to conceive all beings like themselves and transfer to every object those qualities with which they are intimately acquainted and of which they are intimately conscious (David Hume, 1757) [When faced with ambiguity or ignorance, we extrapolate from the next nearest phenomenon . . . as with anthropomorphism] origin of ToM –they think like I do?

[xiv] :  “Abraham Flexner, the founding Secretary General of the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, penned in November 1939 a most readable essay on fundamental research1The Usefulness of Useless Knowledge described, in Flexner’s fluid prose, how apparently random experimentation eventually leads to the most important discoveries. He argued vehemently against the need for utility in the promotion of research and the allocation of funding. Instead, Flexner delivered a rousing plea for the “freeing of the human spirit”. His article is an eloquent discourse on the benefits and virtues of freedom in fundamental research. Flexner’s words are music to the ears of scientists who pursue science because they are curious and, in the venerable words of Friedrich Schiller, do not live off science but, above all, for science. Although Flexner’s essay appeared more than 75 years ago, it is still one of the most compelling pieces on the vital role of fundamental research — extolling not only its cultural value, but also its benefit to mankind in general.”

[xv] An attractor is defined as the smallest unit which cannot be itself decomposed into two or more attractors with distinct basins of attraction. This restriction is necessary since a dynamical system may have multiple attractors, each with its own basin of attraction.   Attractor — from Wolfram MathWorld   i.e.,

An attractor is a set of states (points in the phase space), invariant under the dynamics, towards which neighboring states in a given basin of attraction asymptotically approach in the course of dynamic evolution. An attractor is defined as the smallest unit which cannot be itself decomposed into two or more attractors with distinct basins of attraction. This restriction is necessary since a dynamical system may have multiple attractors, each with its own basin of attraction.

Conservative systems do not have attractors, since the motion is periodic. For dissipative dynamical systems, however, volumes shrink exponentially so attractors have 0 volume in n-dimensional phase space.

A stable fixed point surrounded by a dissipative region is an attractor known as a map sink. Regular attractors (corresponding to 0 Lyapunov characteristic exponents) act as limit cycles, in which trajectories circle around a limiting trajectory which they asymptotically approach, but never reach. Strange attractors are bounded regions of phase space (corresponding to positiveLyapunov characteristic exponents) having zero measure in the embedding phase space and a fractal dimension. Trajectories within a strange attractor appear to skip around randomly.

Also, nicely stated at  And further developed in a way accommodating to mathophobes at (“The simplest example of an attractor is an attractor point, such as the lowest point in the middle of a pendulum swing. The flow of this simple dynamic system is continually drawn to this central attractor point, and after a time period determined by a variety of factors (the force of the push, the length of the string, the friction of the air etc.) eventually settles there. A slightly more complex system would settle into not just an attractor point but an attractor basin. i.e. a set of points that describes a region of that space.”)  When many of these guys say evolution they just mean change.

Evolution & Development of Art – clues from paleolithic 

cumulative sitemap for resources




last update: 20 Dec 2023