Emotion and Empirical Aesthetics


  • Sue Spaid Brussels




appreciative attitudes, aesthetic experience, exhibitions, museums, emotion


The rise in neuroaesthetics laboratories across the globe has led to scores of experiments designed to grasp people’s emotional, cognitive and perceptual responses to artworks, yet few researchers have studied spectators experiencing visual art in actual exhibitions. In 2015, Volker Kirchberg and Martin Tröndle published the results of their five-year experiment, whereby they mapped the physiological, social, psychological and aesthetic experiences of ‘600 diverse persons with a designed exhibition of classic modern and contemporary art as part of the Swiss national research project eMotion’. Their study’s most counter-intuitive discovery is the negligible role played by emotional response for those most engaged with artworks, that is, those spectators who regularly assess, evaluate and judge artworks. Given that not all appreciative attitudes reflect emotional responses, this paper argues that it would behoove researchers to study artworks that literally ‘move us’, causing us to take action, shift perspectives and adopt new values.

Author Biography

Sue Spaid, Brussels

Since 1984, Belgium-based philosopher Sue Spaid, Ph. D., has been active in the artworld as a curator, art writer, university lecturer, and museum director. Spaid, who writes regularly for HArt, was on the Contributors Board for artUS, where she published 65 articles between 1997 and 2010. She has organized over 100 exhibitions for artist-run spaces, galleries and museums, most notably “Green Acres: Artists Farming Fields, Greenhouses, and Abandoned Lots” (2012) and “Ecovention: Current Art to Transform Ecologies” (2002). While Executive Director at the Contemporary Museum, Spaid published A Field Guide to Patricia Johanson’s Works: Proposed, Built, Published and Collected.




How to Cite

Spaid, Sue. 2020. “Emotion and Empirical Aesthetics”. Aesthetic Investigations 4 (1). Utrecht, NL:122-32. https://doi.org/10.58519/aesthinv.v4i1.11929.