- Psychology 2.0
Arts and the communication of Cognitive Schemata
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- 1. Art psychology and Berlyne's model
- 2. Understanding the difference between kitsch and art, and between high art and popular art
- 3. An artist is principally a communicator
- 4. What is fashion?
- 5. Further examples related to the communication of cognitive schemata
- 6. The definition of beauty
Why is an article related to art psychology the first example mentioned in Fodormik's Integrated Paradigm for Psychology (FIPP)? Because the whole model is rooted in art psychology.
An important phase in the evolution of art psychology began when D.E. Berlyne examined the delights of the visual arts, and identified a reversed U-shape curve that explains the connection between certain parameters of an artwork and the pleasure it provides (Berlyne, D. (1971). Psychobiology and Aesthetics. New York: Appleton-Century Crofts. resp. D.E. Berlyne 1960 Conflict, Arousal, and Curiosity. New York: McGraw-Hill.);see illustration.
In brief, that connection is of a certain parameter – for example, complexity, the number of colors, or density – that elicits an increasing pleasure. Measuring this from zero, that pleasure seems to reach an optimal, positive point, after which it begins to have a negative effect, which can then become disturbing to the observer of the artwork.
The advantage of the Berlyne model is its elegance. However, the model has little or nothing to do with real art. Examining the arts from a practical, measurable viewpoint is a childish simplification, as the basis of art is strongly connected to the period(s) and culture within which it was created. Let us call this cultural embedding. The Berlyne model does not consider these connections.
The elegance of the Berlyne-curve model describing the pleasure effect, despite its disadvantages, seemed to offer an implicit foundation, which I shall later justify and prove.
The key issue is not to examine the intensity of a parameter, but to observe the distance between the cognitive schemata of the artist and the observer. For example, in the case of a photograph of an apple, the photographer who sees the apple illustrates it the way we see it in two dimensions. In this case, we do not have to work too hard to understand the uniformity of the two schemata, as the distance is practically zero. However, if we look at an apple drawn or painted by Picasso, we need to make a serious intellectual effort to 'see' the apple, or to ‘see’ the apple the way Picasso saw it. Those who give up before seeing the apple loathe, or at least dislike, Picasso, saying that he only scribbles. They appear to give up before a new cognitive schema has been created. Catharsis did not happen and they did not achieve a Self-Expanded state. In contrast, retaining their Self-narrowing causes them to become angry. If they do not understand the picture, they would remain neutral about it.
In addition, what happens in an apple? It is not a unique experience, even if we add the effect of solving a puzzle; reconstructing Picasso's ”scribble” to a form. A further experience is obtained in that, by solving the puzzle, we have a better understanding of the apple, and the observer of a painting sees it more plastically than on a photograph. We see it almost in 3D, to the point of believing that we can smell the apple, as the apple's cognitive schema becomes increasingly activated compared with the activation that comes as an effect of a photograph.
Cognitive schemata themselves are culturally embedded. So, to make a “correct” conclusion on an artist’s cognitive schemata – understanding the artist’s message – requires knowledge of the impulses and information that affected them. For this we need to know the age and culture in which the artist worked, or works. For example, to understand a Renaissance painting one should have a certain knowledge of the Bible, and the visual tools that Bible stories provide. This may communicate a message pertinent to the present, so providing us with a useful cognitive schema in our 21st century life. In addition, establishing these cognitive schemata causes Self-Expansion.
Comparing Berlyne's model – which somewhat charmingly ignores the question of the cultural embedding – with FIPP, we see that FIPP can explain not only classic visual arts but also any kind of works of art. For example, it explains the fun of tasting wine, when after some trials we can recognize the taste of spices and fruits within it. Or in reading a poem, when the unstructured cognitive schemata of the poet enter the reader’s mind and establish new connections and schemata. Or in admiring a building, which connects the scheme of the building to value or values it suggests so establishing a new one; for example, the Eiffel Tower as a flexible, elegant, light but ambitious structure representing the French spirit.
Using FIPP as a generalized Berlyne model we can understand the difference between kitsch and art. The principal question with high art is that it is more difficult to understand. In contrast, as kitsch or popular art do not need intellectual effort to take them in, we realize that our efforts with higher art obtain a benefit. We can see that solving the mystery in an artwork – for example, where is the apple in the “scribble”? – is not an effort to see l’art pour l’art (art for art’s sake), but enriches us by establishing new cognitive schemata. If we see a half-eaten apple after viewing Picasso’s apple, we might perceive new associations with it. Whereas with kitsch we need make no serious effort, and thus do not create cognitive schemata that can be used otherwise than in viewing a specific item of kitsch. So, kitsch does not enrich our knowledge or personalities.
However, we should understand that popular art can create new cognitive schemata. The difference between popular and high art lies in that level created by the new cognitive schemata. In the case of a comic the new schema is created at a very basic level, usable almost only in the context where it was created. Whereas in a Bergman film, we might establish new cognitive schemata connecting with our whole life, being the highest level of cognitive schemata.
Identifying these differences between levels of our human life raises a question. On what levels do different types of arts elicit their effects? For example, pornography and horror are said to gratify one’s basic instincts. Detective stories are deemed interesting because of their ability to excite. These artistic forms continue to be increasingly popular, as they satisfy specific demands. But how do they satisfy those demands?
To date, most of our knowledge is a hypothesis on a particular genre satisfying particular demands. This has resulted in a process whereby we classify genres considering the general human or ethical value (sex, eating, physical needs on the lowest levels; altruism, social work, self-realization on the highest level; compare with the Maslow pyramid) of the demand they satisfy. Pornography and horror could be on the lowest level, followed by detective fiction, and on up to high art. But even critics admit that true genius can place superior messages – those which are of more use in one’s life than simple, targeted messages – in some of the genres classified as inferior. Edgar Alan Poe's detective stories provide such an example.
Do these lower level arts cause an effect just by simply satisfying inferior desires? Even persons of high artistic repute might listen to rave music, read comics, watch cartoons. In the following we try to determine the mechanism behind the effect of different art.
A typical detective story contains the following elements:
- the description of the crime (or what can be found at the scene of the crime)
- an investigator, who often reconstructs the crime and identifies the suspect via a clean, logical thought process, paying attention to details which a reader may have thought irrelevant
- the enigma is solved, the guilty are arrested…
Let us translate these using FIPP terms:
- the Environment is the crime. To begin with a big Environment, the crime is related to aggression that automatically increases the Environment's size compared to the Self; it is rare that a detective story is concerned with “who was the one who saved somebody's life?” When we accept the story’s framework – perhaps it occurs during the last century, in an upper-class environment &c. – then our Environment is identical to the detective story.
- from acceptance of the story’s framework the Environment begins to increase and narrow the Self. This process is described in everyday life as excitement. The increase of the Environment is undertaken as we follow the detective's investigations
- the Environment reaches its maximum when we are close to giving up in attempting to solve the crime
- then, by receiving required piece of information we can create (re-construct) the cognitive schema of the crime. If this is not possible, we then listen to the detective who re-constructs the crime.
- when the new cognitive schema was created the Self regains control on the Environment – by retrospectively understanding how the information we had about the crime connect to each other – and this leads to Self-Expanding
- the Self-Expansion in itself is a joyful state that compensates us for the effort spent during the Self-Narrowing, perhaps when reading the book or watching the film. A further question arises: is this new cognitive schema usable for anything else? Perhaps one does not have to read a book in order to learn the techniques of committing a crime.
- there is a slight difference between solving the crime by ourselves or needing the detective to provide the solution. Solving it by ourselves creates a new cognitive schema, which leads to greater Self-Expansion. In the second case it is the Self of the detective which is greatly expanded, and we are the first listener with whom he/she shares his/her new schema. The latter also creates a new schema in us, but the effect is usually lower.
- an important point is that the more complex (but still understandable) the crime, so more logical steps are needed to understand or solve it, and so the greater Self-Narrowing we tolerate, for which the reward is greater Self-Expanding
- however, I have never read a detective story describing the Self-Expansion of the detective...
It may be seen, from a psychological viewpoint, that this process has many similarities with problem-solving.
Before we attempt an explanation of the “beauty” of horror films, let us briefly familiarize ourselves with catharsis, one of the main concepts of ancient Greek aesthetics (the science of beauty) and one parallel with the aha experience. According to the Greeks, it is the basis of artistic pleasure when a story, (typically a tragedy,) with a negative consequence – the death of the leading character – ends on an optimistic note; the tragic event serves to show a greater good on a more general level. For example, the hero dies, but his city is saved. The Greeks describe catharsis as an overwhelmingly positive event that strengthens people's morality.
How does this work? When a film does not end happily we are sad. Self-expansion is usually described as a positive feeling. Is there a contradiction here? The contradiction can be released if we take into account that a new cognitive schema is created. We realize that sometimes we have to lose something to achieve higher goals. Naturally, we are happier when we win without effort or loss. But that is hardly the usual case.
The other cognitive schema that a sad or tragic ending gives us is the establishment of order amongst our personal values. When watching a drama we feel empathy with the main character, and try to guess how we would have behaved in similar circumstances. As the main character behaves according to his or her own ethics, so we have also to reflect on our own ethics. As he chooses, say, between his child's life and saving his city, or between his reputation and his team's victory, so our priorities are made clear. (A colleague related that when he was playing in a psychodrama he realised that his daughter's life is prior to his. Until that moment he would have been able to answer only in theory that that was the situation. In the psychodrama he also felt in his body that that was the case. That then became an axiom of his life, and so made decision-making easier as the priorities – at least concerning this topic – became clear.)
Pink Flamingos and anti-catharsis
To explain the value of horror films, I shall review the film “Pink Flamingos” , which remarkably uses the technique that I call anti-catharsis. This film is concerned with making disgust limitless. Presented in a rather naturalistic manner, it is rare that all of the audience can watch it through to the end. I do not consider myself inhibited, but I could only watch the first third. The film centers on two disgusting people competing to determine which of them can do something more disgusting than the other.
An example from the film: one of the main characters wants to have a child by kidnapping a woman, keeping her as a hostage, have a homosexual man try to rape her but, having failed, he injects his sperm into the woman with a needle. Later they sell the child "produced" by the woman to buy drugs. Another storyline within the film is of a woman who weighs some 200 kilograms (440 lbs.), living in a mobile home in an incestuous relation with her retarded son. When he goes out shopping, she pleasures herself by walking around with a raw chop between her legs.
I struggled to detach myself from the visual stimuli, while thinking of the twisted mind of the person who had written it. When I could take no more, I left the cinema. There then occurred catharsis. On the street were ordinary people I considered beautiful, and the ordinary weather seemed like the nicest day of spring.
What happened? I escaped from an extremely Self-narrowing state, compared with which even the ordinary outside world brought Self-expansion. The dead point was the moment I decided to leave. Even now, I consider the concept of the film wonderful. However, when I tried to watch it again I could watch even less. This event made me realize that one can reach Self-expanding not only by starting and rising from the average level (by making superior cognitive schemata), but also by forcing oneself to concentrate on the most inferior cognitive schemata, and then the cognitive schemata of our everyday life. We could say that in this way nothing changes: we do not create any new cognitive schemata. That is not true: we restructure our existing cognitive schemata on seeing the beauty in our everyday life. The different perspective on our usual life is the new cognitive schema, which enriches the way we view our ordinary lives.
A similar experience occurred when I asked Scandinavian friends why they had moved to Hungary, leaving behind what would seem to an outsider to be a perfect country, with a functioning and honest society, high standard of living and so forth. The short answer was: the Hungarian weather is heaven itself to us. And yet I want to go to Hawaii and the Seychelles... So, I learned to appreciate our weather. On the other hand, the wife of a good friend had to move to Hungary from Israel. Clad in a coat in the middle of October, she said “Back home I could walk on the beach in a bikini right now...” In addition to my neutral opinion, the two further perspectives enriched my cognitive schema about our Hungarian weather: what can be heaven for a Swede is rather cold for an Israeli.
However, to return to horror. “Pink Flamingos” is an atypical horror film: it is not full of blood and gore, and one is not scared all of the time. But the mechanism is the same: after we are frightened, our Self narrows intensely, we switch off the TV and, when we realize that we are in our warm cosy room, slip into a soft bed and, unless we dream about the film, we can then become Self-expanded.
The same occurs with very spicy food. Eating it might initially be painful and cause discomfort, but when the effect is fully released our Self begins to expand from its narrowed state.
New cognitive schemata can be established on more than one level: an author can create new schemata close to those instincts of less intellectual people, and higher level schemata for those ready to use their intellect and learn something about more general things.
An example of this is Shakespeare. In his time the theater was visited by people of all classes and rank. Shakespeare was able to satisfy that range of interests and demands in the same play. For instance, Hamlet loved Ophelia (romantic feelings for ladies), it has many duels (aggression for men), but one’s own schema can be enriched with further topics: family affairs, jealousy, politics &c.
As for pornography…the value of the film “Emanuele” is that, apart from the spectacle of naked bodies and sexual intercourse, it attempts to explain the power of feminine beauty and the different roles a woman can have.
An educated person, with experience of classical arts – Shakespeare, Goethe &c. – may try to protect others from kitsch and so called commercial arts, seeing them as being inferior to the classics. I would as well, but for different reasons.
Let us classify the artworks under three art forms:
- popular art: made for the masses for the purpose of generating profit for its authors (e.g. action films, medical novels, soap operas…)
- high art: which can satisfy the demands of the well-educated and high-IQ population (e.g. Bergman, Goethe, Picasso)
- commercial art: which has some of the characteristics of high art, but with only a shallow message (e.g. most of the Oscar winning films like Titanic, Out of Africa etc.).
Popular and high art are fair deals, according to the model of cheat detection (Cosmides, L. (1989) The logic of social exchange: Has natural selection shaped how humans reason? Studies with the Wason selection task Cognition 31, 187-276):
- popular art: a small investment – one only has to look at it – one reaches virtually no profit (no teaching)
- high art: a large investment – one must have preliminary knowledge to understand it, and, later, to consider it further – it provides a large profit and answers to major life questions
- commercial art: promises a big profit for a small investment, yet delivers small profit for large investment. This is perceived as a cheat.
According to FIPP:
- popular art creates basic (low-level) cognitive schemata. Its pleasure lies in changing Self-narrowed and Self-expanded states quite quickly (compare with thrills, excitement)
- high art creates high-level cognitive schemata that can be used later for creating lower- or mid-level ones. It provides both a better understanding of the world and greater self-expansion
- commercial art attempts to establish higher level cognitive schemata but, as it activates only low- and mid-level schemata, so it results only in low- and mid-level schemata. With even the author knowing that there is no new and clear high-level schema to communicate, it is like talking without a clear message; he/she can not communicate a non-existent answer to a question. At the same time, however, it seeks to make these mid-level, rather tendentiously formed, schemata bigger than they actually are, by copying the visual world of high art. They hold out the promise of teaching more valuable high-level ideas, which they themselves may have not have, or only in an unclear form.
The point of all art is that a cognitive schema originally created or held by someone – usually the artist – is depicted in either oral or object form which, through its communication, elicits a Self-expanded state in the mind of somebody else by establishing a new cognitive schema. This capability of the artistic work to generate Self-expansion explains why something, apparently without practical use, has existed on Earth since the first men: the earliest art seen in cave drawings, fertility sculptures &c. In addition, the first artworks provided the possibility to spread those newly-born cognitive schemata that verbal communication was not able to.
To illustrate this by an example:
According to the Bible, the first man was created by God shaping the human body from dust and then breathing a soul into his nostrils, which is the divine difference distinguishing objects from the living. By this process the dust body became alive, and the first man, Adam, was born.
To this point it is a story known by almost everybody. If you had been there as an outsider and you could have recorded it on camera, but allowed to show only one frame of that film, which would you choose?
I would choose the moment when something lifeless becomes alive as the most important.
Perhaps Michelangelo was the first artist to realize that if he compressed that universal event – on how human beings were created – into a single image, he would contrast markedly the divine, the live, with mere matter, the lifeless. Breathing, here breathing soul into the body, cannot be rendered accurately in a still image, so Michelangelo sought a solution. Artistic freedom enables the visualization of a cognitive schema without the elements required of such a schema. So Michelangelo portrayed God breathing life into Adam by touching, a far more concise sign.
However, where is the communication in this process? In Michelangelo’s mind, two new cognitive schemata emerged to provide an intellectual solution:
- the possibility of depicting the contrast between alive and lifeless by a single image of creation; and
- in connection with that depiction, the priority of touch before breathing.
The following cognitive schemata required to be communicated are united in one image by the artist:
- the difference between lifeless and alive
- God’s power to provide life
- the state in which we did not exist, and that in which we do
- the visualization of the process of creation
Supposedly, the image itself – as a cognitive schema – came to Michelangelo by an inductive process as he was meditating on creation, about lifeless and live matter &c. But it is possible that Michelangelo came to this image through calculation, design, a process of trial-and-error or by deduction.
I believe that it was by induction, as:
- induction is more a characteristic of genius than is deduction
- painters usually think in images rather than within logical exclusion
Whatever type of thinking he used one thing is certain: a new cognitive schema was established. Regarding our model, as the new scheme emerged, Michelangelo felt the urge to communicate. He was motivated to share his new cognitive schema with others, which gave him the energy to physically create the picture.
In the process of artistic creation (=physical realisation), technical ability (knowing how to paint and how to convey your internal pictures onto a canvas) connect with the quality of communication. So, if he had not thought so much about it, the message obtained by observers would leave them with difficulties in interpreting and understanding the painting. Fortunately, in this instance we have a painting where not only the concept, but also its realization, is exceptional. Note in particular the solution in the structure of the picture: the hand of God barely touches Adam, so accentuating the tension.
Artists can excel in two ways:
- they can communicate their cognitive schemata intensely; these are the people who we call virtuosi, craftsmen or, simply, professionals. We admire how well these people can touch the substance of something; compare Picasso's apple with a good photograph
- they have unique thoughts and cognitive schemata about life which is rarely achieved by others. Sometimes, results are a consequence of the artist’s different thought processes: musician think in melodies, poets in words, painters in pictures, and so forth. They can add something that makes our life more understandable, as Ingmar Bergman does in his films
The reaction to an artwork is the process of incorporating the new cognitive schema. In doing so, we (the receivers) establish the same connections and thus the same cognitive schema, and then connect that to our existing cognitive schemata. Essentially, the received cognitive schema becomes part of our thinking, a part of our Self. It also must be noted that the perception is not a unidirectional process. In order to find the proper place of this new schema, we have to consider the schemata around this future schema of ours. This is what we call cultural embedding: the surrounding schemata should be similar to those of the artist. Otherwise the whole process leads to miscommunication.
Therefore, with our knowledge of the Bible, (that functions as a common communicational coding/decoding system), we complete the story, understand the picture, and so the new cognitive schema emerges. Those ones who do not know the Bible or differ in their thoughts about the appearance of the first man (e.g. the first monkey who could light a fire, or the kids of the jackal and the sun), will not understand the picture.
Whenever we talk about Self-Expanding we emphasize that this is due to a NEW cognitive schema. After this new schema becomes well-known it may begin to bore.
When we talk about spreading new schemata we can also talk about fashion. This rhythmical change of new and boring state provides the following rhythm of fashion:
- new things appear (e.g. wearing T-shirts without arms) with a newly-created cognitive schema behind it
- based on the new cognitive schema new, but lower level, schemata are created via deduction (e.g. in the beginning everybody thought that armless T-shirts in black were funny, then somebody tried armless T-shirts in colors)
- when the new cognitive schemata have become known by the majority of the population, and there are then no possibilities for further deduction, the clothes or behavior based on this cognitive schema disappear and a new one appears and starts to spread (e.g. perhaps armless T-shirts with turtle-necks)
We know that there are good and bad teachers. Moreover, we realize that a teacher we like may be disliked by others, so that there is no absolute good teacher. How can we conceptualize a good teacher from a psychological point of view?
To discuss this topic, let us ignore a teacher’s personality, and that people prefer others who are similar to them or, in certain instances, diametrically different to them (Newcomb(1961): The acquaintance process. New York, Plt). The examination of the qualities of a good teacher or lecturer are more effective indicators.
As we already have a psychological concept of what people perceive as a good feeling in general – the Self-Expanding – we can simply say that a good teacher is a person who elicits a Self-Expanding in the audience.
But how can a teacher cause – or create – Self-Expanding? He starts by narrowing our Self through presenting the problem (our Environment becomes the problem) and the weight or importance of the problem (the Environment increases in size). He or she then takes us on a journey requiring attention and intellectual effort, showing us the path to the solution. Individually, we shape the new cognitive schema that he or she wanted to teach us.
An alternative to showing us the path is to drive us, so that suddenly, as when driving on a road we round a curve and our whole perspective is filled with the sea. We understand the solution in an instant, and have an aha experience. This alternative method can be called the “dynamic lecture” style: the subject appears to become increasingly complex and then suddenly everything falls into place as the new cognitive schema emerges. Everything we saw before now makes sense. Moreover, we can reach conclusions by ourselves, when we realize a general connection that can be applied both to the present problem under examination and to similar problems. The ne plus ultra of a good lecture is when a high-level cognitive schema emerges which has a general influence on our world view.
But what is required for that? One must choose the speed and the level of cognitive schemata carefully. By speed I mean that the Self-narrowing phase has to be well-designed and balanced: if it is too slow (too gently sloping) it is boring, if it is too fast (too steep) most of the audience will not be able to follow it, and will give up.
So, careful selection of the correct level of cognitive schemata is needed to ensure that the lecturer can use, can build on, the well-known, shaped concepts (cognitive schemata) familiar to the audience. For this the lecturer has to understand the limitations of the audience’s knowledge. This requires a one-sender/many-receiver type of empathy. The lecturer can collect information on both the speed and on whether he has chosen right level by using the feed-back coming from the audience. This feed-back information can have different forms, from buzzing, rustling, chatting through to being rapt or completely silent. Or they are listening wide-eyed (the phenomena of being wide-eyed is pupil dilation, a side-effect of Self-Expanding).
The lecturer must also have reasonable targets. The lecturer has a chance to establish cognitive schemata within the audience only one or two levels higher than those they had before the lecture. (Note that it is difficult to explain Maxwell equations based on primary school knowledge.) New, but too low cognitive schemata, do not elicit great Self-Expansion, although occasionally it is necessary to broaden our knowledge by learning listed items without any obvious structure; for example, learning by rote the name of U.S. presidents or the names of the states). Even then, it is of greater interest if we first realize the common idea behind the list. There is a difference of learning a row of random numbers, perhaps those in a telephone directory, than by learning the names of different muscles of the human body (anatomy). Although the latter seems also to be random, the names have an internal logic. By learning them, a medicine student creates a cognitive schema of the physical basis of the human body.
If the Self-Narrowing phase is overlong, people may give up, by physically leaving the classroom or by turning their attention elsewhere. Another drawback is when the audience feels that the Self-Expansion is not in balance with the former Self-Narrowing. (For example, when after a long explanation, the lecturer sheds light on a fact that was previously known to almost everybody.)
Occasionally, a lecturer is incapable of empathizing with the audience: their cognitive schemata are on such a different level that they cannot communicate. For example, where a university professor of mathematics explains summation to a primary school pupil. Even if he can do that, it is not good for either of them: whenever a teacher explains and proves a thesis, he rebuilds the cognitive schema in himself and experiences a small Self-expansion, or perhaps realizes some new aspect and so obtains greater Self-expanding. However, in the case of very low cognitive schemata, perhaps the most that the professor facing the primary school pupil can gain is the pleasure of imparting the methodology, the manner of his explanation, his examples and so forth.
To return to the issue of personality: for a seasoned lecturer, choosing the proper level of cognitive schemata is mostly a conscious process. Thus, the selection of the target level may communicate also unconscious motives e.g. political views. So, those who deal impatiently with less talented students demand of the audience that it attempt to leap several levels while understanding that only the most talented students will follow him, so indicating an elitist focus; (those who were unable to follow him might never catch up with the topic). Those who take the less talented into consideration, and want to help their development – notwithstanding that that will affect negatively clever students – are likely to have sympathy with socialist or social democrat philosophy in everyday life. It is logical that the former requirement – of a leap of several levels – will be favoured only by the elite, and that the latter will be favoured by the rest.
This position is the same when calling students to account, or for the form or quantity, or both, of their homework. We may even consider a personality trait: how much does the teacher prefer visual tools, or how visual does he or she think? Those students who have an auditory focus will dislike lecturers who always use charts and figures.
In the mid 1980s I learned that, if a director wants to avoid a film becoming boring and losing the audience’s interest in watching it, then every seven minutes something new must happen; a turn, exciting action, a new riddle, a new solution &c.
Intense attention cannot be endless in time. It will eventually weaken and turn to something else. Films which periodically give us new stimuli within this attention weakening period can be called fast-paced; a master this genre is Tarantino, or perhaps a better example is the television series “24”.
According to our theory, what happens in these fast-paced films is that the director changes the Self-narrowed and Self-expanded phases: the tension (Self-Narrowing) and the solution (Self-Expansion) change rhythmically (or at least periodically), and also new story-lines, possibilities, points of view… Anything new can be viewed as mini-paradigms or new mini frameworks, which cause further Self-expanding. Raising new questions (the mini-paradigms) also requires new (lower-level) cognitive schemata. The partial solutions for the partial problems give us small aha experiences, but previously they also unavoidably led to Self-narrowing.
From this point of view, dramatic advisory is the art of mixing these elements optimally, which can only be achieved by careful planning. As, if the elements from different sources and of different intensity are not distributed and placed well enough, then we become disorganized; we either become disturbed by the overflow of stimuli, or become bored because of the lack of sufficient stimuli.
(As an example, a murder in an action film is a typical method for self-narrowing, but when a negative character is killed in a long fight in which the hero almost dies as well, that will lead to Self-expanding. Love scenes cause Self-expanding, partially through empathy (we enter into the spirit of the character, how good it must be for him,kissing, being teased. Also, because, generally, love means the solution of a problem within the film, which anticipates the resolution of the respective conflict.)
To sum up, a good dramatic adviser, together with a good director and cameraman (those who guarantee the technical realization, providing the craftsmanship mentioned in the Michelangelo example) can play with the size of our Selves in a manner that is good for us.
A good wooer does the same with girls' self and their self-confidence when he varies compliments and affects either complete attention or indifference and neglectful behavior. These variances force the other party to be fully engaged and so they turn toward the wooer with greater attention; the chosen person’s Environment is filled with the tactical wooer. She fears that she will miss messages that could increase her confidence and therefore she might remain completely ignored.
In both cases (film and courting) the key is not to let the Self of people rest AND to ensure that the overall process will lead to future Self-expansion. So, creators and wooers have to meet expectations on two levels:
- inside the process, on different occasions there have to be several small Self-expandings; and
- the whole process has to lead to Self-Expansion. For example, the film has something to tell, providing a new cognitive schema, or a love comes true which is again a new cognitive schema (the cognitive schema “Us” is formed instead of the cognitive schemata “You” and “Me”.
A good speech is based on similar principles. Although different in that it is less visual, far more intellectual tools can be used. The usual set-up is that someone stands on the stage and talks. They may use figures for explanations. The good speech has one or more clear messages for the audience. This message is in most cases delivered as evidence, a new cognitive schema. The greater the distance between the connected matters (for example, if it tries to place something in a political, social, or historical context, which is not obviously expected) the greater the Self-Expansion effect of the creation of the new scheme.
There are different techniques to build up a speech. You can start with the speech's general message, and later explain how did you get to that conclusion. An other widespread method used by speakers is to repeat the path by which he reached the new evidence. This is similar why the Passion of Christ (the last hours of Jesus before he was crucified) is repeated by Christians each year at Easter. The advantage of this method is that many sub-problems, and the pleasure of solving them, can be communicated. (Supposing that this does not happen in order to increase the ego of the speaker by listing how clever he or she was in dealing with these problems.) If the sub-problems are interesting as such, and if they mobilize the cognitive schemata surrounding the cognitive schema to be introduced, it may have a greater effect. This solution makes it possible for those cognitive schemata to connect faster with the new evidence – the new cognitive schema – as they trigger the schemata around the future scheme, so causing increasing Self-Expansion.
During a speech we have to pay attention to the harmonic distribution of evidence over time, similar to watching a film, so retaining our attention.
The function of presentation is to help the communicational process by opening a visual channel above the auditory channel to the audience. As we know from the principles of Psychology 2.0, a good figure or diagram helps more the understanding than 10 pages of written material.
If we talk about the advantages of visual communication, let us examine with the help of the FIPP what can be said about good diagrams.
The criteria for good diagrams are widely known:
- it is easy to overview it. It should display only one or two thoughts. In other words we can say that it is focused
- it is clear. Even the most striking illustration is worthless if we cannot identify the parts of it. (Although it can also be a technique of the lecturer to show too much information if he doesn’t want to reveal the point of the lecture too early and plans to return to an illustration later)
- and it has to be simple. Congestion (too high information density) intimidates us in attempting to understand a diagram.
Distinctiveness can be achieved by considering that any new cognitive schema can be built only on those already extant. So, the greater the number of existing and widely-used cognitive schemata we build on, the better the basis for the new cognitive schema. If we want the audience to understand our illustration, we should apply to it as few abstract concepts as possible. We can not count on newly understood concepts, as they have not yet subsided (the new cognitive schema has not made connections with the surrounding ones and so has not yet integrated with the audience's knowledge). Thus, regardless of how it would accelerate the process of building a new higher-level schema based on those existing, it is not advisable to use the newly built schema unless there is the possibility to re-read it, from a publication, notes &c.
Using colour coding is beneficial, especially if it fits the general notation (e.g. the traffic light use of red = not allowed, green = allowed). By using colours we can rely on the use of Self-Expanding colours (vivid, warm) to be used for marking positive things, and Self-Narrowing colours (dark, cold) for details indicating danger or negativity e.g. illnesses, viruses &c.
Different things are “nice” to different people, so making the definition of beauty difficult. We can use the word "beautiful" although we may have problems with its definition. Maybe Kant best defined it when he said: “In general beauty is what we like without interest.” (Immanuel Kant, Kritik der Urteilskraft, hrsg. von H.F. Klemme. Mit Sachanmerkungen von P. Giordanetti, Meiner, Hamburg, 2001 (2006) ). FIPP has an explanation for this phenomenon, and suggests a definition for beauty.
Let us begin by attempting to understand why everybody does not like the same things and why they call different things “nice”. The answer lies in the differences of our cognitive schemata Even if we had the same cognitive schemata, they are connected differently. For example, the word "Madonna": an atheist or agnostic will associate the name with the musician, a Catholic will associate it with the Blessed Virgin, and someone studying for an Italian language exam will associate it with the word Madame.
Similarly, it is also important to determine which cognitive schemata are active and accessible when a person is looking at a piece of art. That is why the surroundings are so important. (For example, when looking at a painting, is the museum quiet, silent, is the lighting good, what are the frames like, are the color of the walls appropriate to the hanging, is the building sympathetic to the piece.) All of these circumstances have a priming effect. In psychology, priming means that the former perception of certain stimuli predisposes us to certain answers and mental states in an ensuing situation.
A good visual example on priming is of two persons' profile, which from another point of view might be seen as a vase (that may depend upon what we have seen immediately before, so that having viewed a cup we then see a vase, or having seen a portrait we then see two profiles). Priming helps an artwork to have an effect, if that is one to be maximized. This is achieved by incorporating the cognitive schema within the same schemata that the artist had when he designed the piece.
To summarize, we can say that beauty is nothing but a cognitive schema – object, event, phenomenon, person, thought – which can be incorporated amongst our existing cognitive schemata, can totally connect with them and, as it is new, so elicits Self-Expansion. The more cognitive schemata it can connect to, and the better its connection, the greater our perception of its beauty.
Principal points covered in this article:
- The formalized description of:
- kitsch-art difference;
- commercial and high art;
- the mechanism of artistic pleasure;
- mechanism of beauty's independence from genres;
- FIPP can also form the basis of a new aesthetics