Introduction by the editors

Jeffrey K. Smith, Pablo P.L. Tinio

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Tell a casual acquaintance that you study “the psychology of aesthetics” and you will usually engender a response of either amusement or bemusement. Most people are not quite sure what such a field is, but will allow that it is at least esoteric, and, quite possibly, sophisticated. Expanding our field to include the psychology of aesthetics and the arts, it is reasonable to query What is this field about? Is it the study of the beautiful? Is it understanding what we like and why we like it? Is it how we perceive the aesthetic in all objects? Aesthetics has been the object of philosophical speculation for millennia. It has also become the province of psychology since Gustav Fechner’s (1876) early aesthetics research involving the Holbein Madonna and the Golden Section. We offer the following definition The psychology of aesthetics and the arts is the study of our interactions with artworks our reactions to paintings, literature, poetry, music, movies and performances our experiences of beauty and ugliness our preferences and dislikes; and our everyday perceptions of things in our world – of natural and built environments, design objects, consumer products and, of course, people. This area of study is therefore characterized by the breadth of its focus, with scholars investigating a wide range of human experiences as they occur in vastly different contexts. At the same time, these scholars also touch on the traditional subjects of psychology as these relate to aesthetics and the arts, such as sensation, perception, memory and emotion, as well as relatively obscure topics, such as the experience of awe and the sublime, which for centuries have been the topics of philosophical inquiry.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe Cambridge Handbook of the Psychology of Aesthetics and the Arts
PublisherCambridge University Press
Number of pages3
ISBN (Electronic)9781139207058
ISBN (Print)9781107026285
StatePublished - 1 Jan 2015


Dive into the research topics of 'Introduction by the editors'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this