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Psychology of Art and Film

  • Module code: PS6009
  • Year: 2018/9
  • Level: 6
  • Credits: 30
  • Pre-requisites: None
  • Co-requisites: None

Summary

"Creating new circuits in art means creating them in the brain too".

Gilles Deleuze

The aesthetic experience relates not only to natural beauty but also to works of art which can be seen as cultural manifestations of the human mind. For centuries artists have used a varied number of media—from pigments to pixels—to evoke a multitude of perceptions and sensory effects able to trigger powerful rational and emotional responses. Psychology of art and film is a young field of study and encompasses a multitude of branches of psychology. The module will broadly focus on the question: If beauty is in the eye of the beholder, what is it about the human experience that enables us to appreciate it? The focus will be on art in the form of paintings, films, photography and ‘installations'.

The module will be divided in three core areas: I. The ‘self‘: cognitive aspects modulating the aesthetic experience; II. The ‘environment': social and cultural aspects modulating the aesthetic experience; and III. Workshops: include talks by invited artists/lecturers and independent visits to museums, galleries and cinemas.

Aims

  • To promote and foster intellectual discussions and critical evaluations concerning social, cultural and cognitive aspects of art appreciation and understanding;
  • To provide an introduction to different aspects of the creative process, as this is crucial for students interested in pursuing jobs in the so-called ‘creative industries';
  • Develop a critical appreciation of how skills and knowledge acquired in a psychology degree can be transferred to a multidisciplinary field of study.

Learning outcomes

On successful completion of the module, students will be able to:

  • Critically evaluate key theoretical issues in the study of the Psychology of Art and Film;
  • Read and interpret primary research sources and integrate those to provide an informed analysis about main ideas about the topic succinctly and clearly;
  • Demonstrate skills in independent learning an understanding of the complexities of studies in the field and employ evidence based reasoning;
  • Communicate comprehension of key issues and debates clearly in writing, demonstrating the ability to synthesise and evaluate complex and multidisciplinary material.

Curriculum content

Part I. The ‘Self ‘: cognitive aspects modulating the aesthetic experience

-Art and human evolution: From cave paintings to museums

-The creative process

-Art and visual perception

-The interplay between reality and pictorial illusions

-Art and schemata

-Moving Images: from the eye to E. Muybridge

Part II. The ‘Environment': social and cultural aspects of the aesthetic experience (8 lectures)

-Establishing criteria for determining ‘good' and ‘bad' art

-Representing reality: The use of monochrome in film and photography

-Photography, art and social memory

-Art and film as sources of psychological and social insight

Part III. Workshops (5 sessions)

-The artist's perspective (with invited artist)

-The spectator's perspective (Part I - visit to Museum)

-The spectator's perspective (Part II – visit to Cinema)

-The spectator's perspective (Part III – Art Installation, Music or Dance show)

Teaching and learning strategy

The module will be structured as 22 three-hour lectures, each composed of a keynote lecture and interactive session. The keynote lecture will introduce topics and direct students to a new and multidisciplinary field of study. These will be followed by interactive sessions, which will seek to consolidate the lecture information and allow discussion of some of the core issues raised in the lectures. Students will be expected to complete set readings and corresponding set questions each week to inform group discussions. Students will be invited to visit museums and/or galleries and to watch a recommended film. An artist will be invited to give a lecture on the creative process leading to a work of art. Students will be asked to create a weekly personal blog or keep a weekly diary entry to reflect on their learning experience along the module.

Breakdown of Teaching and Learning Hours

Definitive UNISTATS Category Indicative Description Hours
Scheduled learning and teaching Keynote and interactive lectures 66
Guided independent study Independent learning, museum/gallery visit, cinema visit 234
Total (number of credits x 10) 300

Assessment strategy

Formative assessment will be given throughout the module, in the interactive lectures, in the form of critical evaluation of the recommended reading and discussion of examples of how to structure essays and reflexive blogs or diary entries.

Summative assessment 1 (Factual Essay, 50% of the final mark): 2,000-word essay about topic related to the first part of the module (cognitive aspects modulating the aesthetic experience).

Summative assessment 2 (Reflective Essay, 50% of the final mark): 2,000-word essay. The assignment is to produce an analytical, reflexive engagement with the piece drawing directly upon a theory or philosophical position considered in the module or in the wider literature.

Students are invited to either produce a cultural artefact (e.g., drawing, painting, short video/film, etc.) OR select a cultural artefact produced by an established artist.

Mapping of Learning Outcomes to Assessment Strategy (Indicative)

Learning Outcome Assessment Strategy
Critically evaluate key theoretical issues in the study of the Psychology of Art and Film Formatively through lecture activities and summatively through essays
Read and interpret primary research sources and integrate those to provide an informed analysis about main ideas and about the topic succinctly and clearly Formatively through lecture activities and summatively through essays
Demonstrate skills in independent learning an understanding of the complexities of studies in the field and employ evidence based reasoning Formatively and summatively through essays
Communicate comprehension of key issues and debates clearly in writing, demonstrating the ability to synthesise and evaluate complex and multidisciplinary material Formatively and summatively through essays

Elements of Assessment

Description of Assessment Definitive UNISTATS Categories Percentage
CWK Essay 50
CWK Essay 50
Total (to equal 100%) 100%

Achieving a pass

It IS NOT a requirement that any major assessment category is passed separately in order to achieve an overall pass for the module

Bibliography core texts

Dutton, D. The Art Instinct. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Solso, R. L. (2003). Psychology of Art and the Evolution of the Conscious Brain. Cambridge, Massachusetts: The MIT Press.

Sontag, S. (1973). On photography. New York: Pan.

Trachtenberg. A. (Ed.), (1980). Classic essays on photography. CT: Leete Island Books.

Bacci, F. & Melcher, D. (2009). Art and the Senses. Oxford: Oxford University Press

Livingstone, M.S. Vision and Art: The Biology of Seeing. New York

EYE, BRAIN AND VISION
Online free book by Hubel and Wiesel: http://hubel.med.harvard.edu/

Bibliography recommended reading

Examples of supplementary reading

  • Calvo-Merino, B., Jola, C., Glaser, D.E., Haggard, P. (2008). Towards a sensorimotor aesthetics of performing art. Consciousness and Cognition, 17, 911-922.
  • Ericsson, K. A., Krampe R. Th., & Tesch-Romer, C. (1993). The role of deliberate practice in the acquisition of expert performance. Psychological Review, 100, 363-406.
  • Web of Vision: http://webvision.med.utah.edu
  • Weisberg, R. W. (2004). On structure in the creative process: A quantitative case-study of the creation of Picasso's Guernica. Empirical Studies in the Arts, 22, 23 – 54.

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