ISSN 0439-755X
CN 11-1911/B

Acta Psychologica Sinica ›› 2021, Vol. 53 ›› Issue (6): 575-586.doi: 10.3724/SP.J.1041.2021.00575

• Reports of Empirical Studies • Previous Articles     Next Articles

The neural mechanism of the aesthetics of dynamic animal-stick figures

ZHAO Xueru2, LI Ting3, LI Jinhui1, HE Xianyou1, ZHANG Wei1, CHEN Guangyao4   

  1. 1School of Psychology, South China Normal University/Key Laboratory of Brain, Cognition and Education Sciences (South China Normal University), Ministry of Education/Center for Studies of Psychological Application/Guangdong Key Laboratory of Mental Health and Cognitive Science, South China Normal University, Guangzhou 510631, China;
    2Academy of Basic Education Professionals, Beijing Institute of Education, Beijing, 100120, China;
    3SSL Experimental Middle School, Dongguan 523000, China;
    4School of Journalism & Communication/National Media & Experimental Teaching Center, Jinan University, Guangzhou 510632, China
  • Received:2020-06-23 Published:2021-06-25 Online:2021-04-25

Abstract: “The love of beauty is an essential part of all healthy human nature.” Aesthetic need is a high-level spiritual pursuit of human beings. In recent years, researchers have gradually paid more and more attention to the importance of beauty. Although researchers have carried out many aesthetic studies, most have focused on the study of static stimuli and not dynamic stimuli such as flying birds or fast trotting horses. Thus, research in cognitive experimental aesthetics and cognitive neuroaesthetics has not addressed the following questions: Which areas of the brain are activated when we appreciate dynamic animals? What are the differences between the brain regions activated by dynamic animals versus static animals? Does dynamic property of the animal affect aesthetic judgment?
We used behavioral research approaches and neurocognitive techniques (functional magnetic resonance image, fMRI) to gather converging evidence that addressed the above questions. In order to avoid the influence of irrelevant factors, we used stick figures as the experimental material. In Experiment 1 we explored if the dynamic property animal-stick figures affects aesthetic judgment. 20 college students participated in the formal experiment and 20 additional college students rated experimental materials. Participants were asked to evaluate the beauty and liking of dynamic animal-stick figures and static animal-stick figures. E-prime 2.0 was used to present stimuli and to collect the behavioral data. Results showed that dynamic animal-stick figures had higher aesthetic scores and liking scores than static animal-stick figures. Animal-stick figures were rated as more beautiful.
In Experiment 2 we explored neural mechanisms that underlie aesthetic judgment of dynamic animal-stick figures and compared the neural mechanisms between the aesthetic judgments of dynamic animal-stick figures and static ones. 20 participants who did not participate in Experiment 1 were scanned while they performed aesthetic judgments on dynamic animal-stick figures and matched static animal-stick figures.
Results revealed that regions of occipital lobe, frontal lobe, hippocampus, cingulate cortex, insula, orbital frontal cortex (OFC) and amygdala were commonly activated in the aesthetic judgments of both dynamic and static animal-stick figures. The neural networks involved in aesthetic judgments of dynamic animal-stick figures overlapped with those involved in aesthetic judgments of static animal-stick figures. Furthermore, compared to static animal-stick figures, stronger activations of lingual gyrus and middle temporal gyrus (MT/V5) were found in the aesthetic judgments of dynamic animal-stick figures. However, compared to dynamic animal-stick figures, no significant activations were found in beautiful judgments of static animal-stick figures.
In summary, the present study indicated that the dynamic property of animal-stick figures affected aesthetic judgment and dynamic animal-stick figures were more beautiful than static ones.

Key words: dynamics, dynamic animal-stick figure, static animal-stick figure, aesthetic

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