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Departmental Seminar, Chris McManus, UCL

11/10/2011 (14:00-15:00)

"To please and entertain the eye": Exploring the psychology of the visual arts

Professor Chris McManus, UCL.

2pm – 3pm, 11th October 2011 (Windsor Auditorium)

Despite aesthetics being a part of experimental psychology in its founding years in the nineteenth century, the topic became profoundly unfashionable with the rise of behaviourism, and it is only in the past decade that it has begun to take off again. In this talk I will look at some questions I have studied empirically including the Golden Section rectangle, composition in photography, and the paintings of Mondrian.

About the speaker

Chris McManus is Professor of Psychology and Medical Education at University College London. He has a PhD in psychology and also qualified as a doctor. He is a Fellow of the Royal Colleges of Physicians of London and of Edinburgh, and a Fellow of the Academy of Medical Sciences. His interest in experimental aesthetics, which he has long-called ‘an academic hobby’ began as an undergraduate when Nicholas Humphrey supervised a project extending Fechner’s seminar nineteenth-century work on aesthetic preferences for rectangles and other simple geometric figures. Those studies are still continuing, with a particular interest in the very large but reliable individual differences that are found. Subsequent experimental work has also looked at more complex and hence more substantively aesthetic images, including a study of the paintings of Mondrian, which manipulated the positions of the lines and showed that ordinary subjects have a significant preference for original Mondrians over pseudo-Mondrians. Recent work has concentrated on the problem of composition, particularly looking at the role of framing and cropping in photography, which are aesthetic tasks that non-expert subjects carry out naturally and intuitively. Finally, in the past few years work with the Royal College of Art and the Art School of Swansea Metropolitan University has studied the nature of representational drawing, the cognitive processes underlying it, and the reasons that some otherwise very talented art students have troubles with drawing.

Contact: Dr Narender Ramnani (n.ramnani@rhul.ac.uk), Department of Psychology, Royal Holloway University of London




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