Cardiff Metropolitan University
Artworks as dichotomous objects- implications for the scientific study of aesthetic experience.pdf (3.87 MB)

Artworks as dichotomous objects: Implications for the scientific study of aesthetic experience

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posted on 2023-09-11, 09:48 authored by Robert PepperellRobert Pepperell

This paper addresses an issue that has been studied from both scientific and art theoretical perspectives, namely the dichotomous nature of representational artworks. Representational artworks are dichotomous in that they present us with two distinct aspects at once. In one aspect we are aware of what is represented while in the other we are aware of the material from which the representation is composed. The dichotomy arises due the incompatibility, indeed contradiction, between these aspects of awareness, both of which must be present if we are to fully appreciate the artwork. Examples from art history are given to show how artists have exploited this dichotomy in a way that conditions our response to their work. I hypothesize that the degree of manifest dichotomy in a work determines the strength of its aesthetic effect, and propose this could be experimentally tested. I conclude that scientific studies of aesthetic experience should take the dichotomous nature of artworks into account.



Frontiers media


  • VoR (Version of Record)


Pepperell, R. (2015) 'Artworks as dichotomous objects: implications for the scientific study of aesthetic experience', Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, 9, 295.

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Cardiff Met Affiliation

  • Cardiff School of Art and Design

Cardiff Met Authors

Robert Pepperell

Cardiff Met Research Centre/Group


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  • © The Authors


  • en

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