Historically, cognitivists considered moral choices to be determined by analytic processes. Recent theories, however, have emphasized the role of intuitive processes in determining moral choices. We propose that the engagement of analytic and intuitive processes is contingent on the type of tradeoff being considered. Specifically, when a tradeoff necessarily violates a moral principle no matter what choice is made, as in tragic tradeoffs, its resolution should result in greater moral conflict and less confidence in choice than when the tradeoff offers (...) a moral escape route, as in taboo tradeoffs. We manipulated tradeoff type in between subjects design and confirmed the prediction that tragic tradeoffs prompt more conflict and less confidence than taboo tradeoffs. The findings further revealed that moral conflict mediated the effect of tradeoff type on confidence. The study sheds light on the manner in which human minds resolve moral problems involving social agents. (shrink)
Humans have engaged in artistic and aesthetic activities since the appearance of our species. Our ancestors have decorated their bodies, tools, and utensils for over 100,000 years. The expression of meaning using color, line, sound, rhythm, or movement, among other means, constitutes a fundamental aspect of our species' biological and cultural heritage. Art and aesthetics, therefore, contribute to our species identity and distinguish it from its living and extinct relatives. Science is faced with the challenge of explaining the natural foundations (...) of such a unique trait, and the way cultural processes nurture it into magnificent expressions, historically and ethnically unique. How do the human mind and brain bring about these sorts of behaviors? What psychological and neural processes underlie the appreciation of painting, music, and dance? How does training modulate these processes? Are humans the only species capable of aesthetic appreciation, or are other species endowed with the rudiments of this capacity? Empirical examinations of such questions have a long and rich history in the discipline of psychology, the genesis of which can be traced back to the publication of Gustav Theodor Fechner's Vorschule der Aesthetik in 1876, making it the second oldest branch in experimental psychology. The Oxford Handbook of Empirical Aesthetics brings together leading experts in psychology, neuroimaging, art history, and philosophy to answer these questions. It provides the most comprehensive coverage of the domain of empirical aesthetics to date. With sections on visual art, dance, music, and many other art forms and aesthetic phenomena, the breadth of this volume's scope reflects the richness and variety of topics and methods currently used today by scientists to understand the way our mind and brain endow us with the faculty to produce and appreciate art and aesthetics. (shrink)
The research programs of empirical aesthetics and neuroaesthetics have reflected deep concerns about viewers' sensitivities to artworks' historical contexts by investigating the impact of two factors on art perception: viewers' developmental (and educational) histories and the contextual histories of artworks. These considerations are consistent with data demonstrating that art perception is underwritten by dynamically reconfigured and evolutionarily adapted neural and psychological mechanisms.
Over the last two decades, we have begun to gain traction on the neural systems that support creative cognition. Specifically, a converging body of evidence from various domains has demonstrated that creativity arises from the interaction of two large-scale systems in the brain: Whereas the default network (DN) is involved in internally-oriented generation of novel concepts, the executive control network (ECN) exerts top-down control over that generative process to select task-appropriate output. In addition, the salience network (SN) regulates switching between (...) those networks in the course of creative cognition. In contrast, we know much less about the workings of these large-scale systems in support of creativity under extreme conditions, although that is beginning to change. Specifically, there is growing evidence from systems neuroscience to demonstrate that the functioning and connectivity of DN, ECN and SN are influenced by stress—findings that can be used to improve our understanding of the behavioural effects of stress on creativity. Toward that end, we review findings from the neuroscience of creativity, behavioural research on the impact of stress on creativity, and the systems-level view of the brain under stress to suggest ways in which creativity might be affected under extreme conditions. Although our focus is largely on acute stress, we also touch on the possible impact of chronic stress on creative cognition. (shrink)
Working memory is the system responsible for maintaining and manipulating information, in the face of ongoing distraction. In turn, WM span is perceived to be an individual-differences construct reflecting the limited capacity of this system. Recently, however, there has been some evidence to suggest that WM capacity can increase through training, raising the possibility that training can functionally alter the neural structures supporting WM. To address the hypothesis that the neural substrates underlying WM are targeted by training, we conducted a (...) meta-analysis of functional magnetic resonance imaging studies of WM training using Activation Likelihood Estimation. Our results demonstrate that WM training is associated exclusively with decreases in blood oxygenation level-dependent responses in clusters within the fronto-parietal system that underlie WM, including the bilateral inferior parietal lobule, middle and superior frontal gyri, and medial frontal gyrus bordering on the cingulate gyrus. We discuss the various psychological and physiological mechanisms that could be responsible for the observed reductions in the BOLD signal in relation to WM training, and consider their implications for the construct of WM span as a limited resource. (shrink)