Monday, April 9, 2012

The Creative Capability of the Brain

A new book by Eric Kandel, The Age of Insight, has gotten a number of interesting reviews. He's a Nobel Prize winner for his basic research into neuroscience who also has studied and written about art and culture. This book, with the subtitle, "the quest to understand the unconscious in art, mind and brain", delves into the scientific and artistic ferment of 19th century Vienna.

In this interview conducted by Jonah Lehrer (who also has a new book out - Imagine, How Creativity Works) Kandel says the following about how we process visual art, and it's a nice summation of how the same thing (or piece of music) can evoke different responses in different people.

I understand better, the nature of ambiguity in art – how each of us sees a slightly different version of a great work of art, and that this interpretation is subject to the creative capability of the brain. I was not aware, before, what a creativity machine the brain is, and how each of us sees a different view of art because we have different brain responses to it, and how, even for simple perception, there is not only bottom-up processing, determined by Gestaltian rules of grouping things together, but there is a lot of top-down processing, which is based on comparing what we see now to what has been stored in memory.

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