Psychology 3912G-001

Psychology and the Arts

If there is a discrepancy between the outline posted below and the outline posted on the OWL course website, the latter shall prevail.


This course will consider a range of questions relating to art that are of interest to psychologists, organized into broad sections: art and mental illness; philosophical issues; and applied topics. Readings will be drawn from a range of sources, including empirical articles, case studies, reviews and books by eminent thinkers.


Antirequisites: Psychology 3990G if taken in 2013/14 or 2014/15


Antirequisites are courses that overlap sufficiently in content that only one can be taken for credit. So if you take a course that is an antirequisite to a course previously taken, you will lose credit for the earlier course, regardless of the grade achieved in the most recent course.


Prerequisites: Psychology 2820E or both Psychology 2800E and 2810

3 seminar hours, 0.5 course


Unless you have either the prerequisites for this course or written special permission from your Dean to enroll in it, you may be removed from this course and it will be deleted from your record. This decision may not be appealed. You will receive no adjustment to your fees in the event that you are dropped from a course for failing to have the necessary prerequisites.


         Instructor:                                                   Dr. Patrick Brown

       Office and Phone Number:                        SSC 7328 / Ext. 84680

       Office Hours:                                              Tuesdays 1:30 – 3:30 and by appointment  



         Time and Location of Classes:                               Thursday, 3:30 – 6:30 / SSC 3120

If you or someone you know is experiencing distress, there are several resources here at Western to assist you.  Please visit: for more information on these resources and on mental health.

Please contact the course instructor if you require material in an alternate format or if you require any other arrangements to make this course more accessible to you. You may also wish to contact Services for Students with Disabilities (SSD) at 519-661-2111 ext 82147 for any specific question regarding an accommodation.


There is no textbook for this course. Instead, there will be readings from various literatures (see below)



This course will consider a range of questions relating to art that are of interest to psychologists, organized into three broad sections: art and brain; philosophical issues as they intersect with psychological concerns; and applied topics. Readings will be drawn from a variety of sources – recent empirical studies; case studies; reviews; and books by eminent thinkers.


By the end of this course, the

successful student should be able to:




Access, interpret, and critically evaluate appropriate research in the psychology of creating and experiencing artistic works

Seminar presentation; essays; final exam

Articulate the concepts and current states of knowledge in relevant natural and social science aspects of the psychology of creating and experiencing artistic works

Seminar presentation; essays; final exam

Evaluate the appropriateness of different methodological approaches to address a specific research question relating to the psychology of creating and experiencing artistic works

Seminar presentation; essays; final exam

Engage in a critical scholarly discussion or debate on a topic related to the psychology of creating and experiencing artistic works

Seminar presentation; essays; final exam

Communicate orally accurately, clearly and logically, using the discourse of the discipline of psychology

Seminar presentation

Communicate in writing accurately, clearly and logically, using the discourse of the discipline of psychology

Essays; final exam

Demonstrate behavior consistent with academic integrity and social responsibility

Seminar presentation review



PLEASE NOTE:  Because this is an essay course, as per Senate Regulations (, you must pass the essay component to pass the course. That is, the average mark for your written assignments must be at least 50%.

The first essay will be due on Thursday, February 8th and the second one on Thursday, March 8th. A list of essay topics will be posted on the course Sakai website during the second week of the Winter term. Students are required to write a minimum of 2500 words for a one term essay course, excluding exams. Essays should be approximately 5 pages long (not counting title page or references), roughly 1250 words each, to meet the 2500 word requirement for an essay course. Essays must be uploaded to through the course Sakai site no later than the day of the submission deadline. Note, however, that if you want the opportunity to revise your paper in response to the report, you should upload it sooner than the deadline date.


Oral presentations will be done in pairs, with two 1.5 hour presentations per day in the later part of the course (that is, two pairs of students will present each day). Each student will also be required to review and evaluate one presentation. Each presentation will be reviewed by two students and presentation grades will be based on the averaged evaluation (though the instructor reserves the right to alter an averaged grade that he considers unfair and to adjudicate between two reviewed grades for a given presentation when those grades are very discrepant). Reviewers will be supplied with a grading form. Review dates will be assigned to students, with their preferences considered. A student who fails to appear for their assigned date to review a presentation will get 0 for their review. In exceptional cases – and only in exceptional cases involving illness or other compassionate grounds – a student who cannot make their assigned review date and communicates this to the instructor before that day will be allowed to review a presentation on a different day.


The final exam will be a take-home exam. The exam will present a set of questions, which will be posted on OWL. Students will respond to one question of their choice. Further information about the final exam and what is expected in responses will be given closer to the date the questions are posted.

Although the Psychology Department does not require instructors to adjust their course grades to conform to specific targets, the expectation is that course marks will be distributed around the following averages:

70%     1000-level and 2000-level courses
72%     2190-2990 level courses
75%     3000-level courses
80%     4000-level courses
The Psychology Department follows Western's grading guidelines, which are as follows (see ):

A+  90-100      One could scarcely expect better from a student at this level
A    80-89        Superior work that is clearly above average
B    70-79        Good work, meeting all requirements, and eminently satisfactory
C    60-69        Competent work, meeting requirements
D    50-59        Fair work, minimally acceptable
F    below 50    Fail


The final exam will be a take-home exam. Questions will be posted on the course OWL site on Thursday, April 5. Exam papers will be due no later than 5:00 pm on Monday, April 23. Late papers will be accepted only by prior arrangement with the instructor.


January 11 – Introduction to the course


January 18 – What is art?




De Sousa, R. (2004). Is Art an Adaptation? Prospects for an Evolutionary Perspective on Beauty. The Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism, 62 (2), 109 – 118).


Dutton, D. (2005). Aesthetic universals. In B. Gaut and D. Lopes (Eds.) The Routledge Companion to Aesthetics. London: Routledge, pp. 279 – 291.


Other readings, not assigned, but on which the lecture will draw:


Polanyi, M. (1962). The unaccountable element in science. Philosophy, 37, 1 – 14.


Polanyi, M. (1970). What is a painting? The American Scholar, 39 (4), 655-669.


Trevarthen, C. (2012). Born for art, and the joyful companionship of fiction. In Narvaez, D., Panksepp, J., Schore, A., & Gleason, T. (Eds.) Evolution, Early Experience and Human Development: From Research to Practice and Policy, 202-218. New York: Oxford University Press.


         January 25 – Music


Avanzini, G. (2012). Neuroscience and music. Rendiconti Lincei, 23, 295-304.


Overy, K. & Molnar-Szakacs, I. (2009). Being together in time: Musical experience and the mirror neuron system. Music Perception, 26 (5), 489–504.


Other readings, not assigned, but on which the lecture will draw:


Trevarthen, C. (1999). Musicality and the intrinsic motive pulse. Musicae Scientiae Special Issue, 2000, 3, 155-215.


         February 1 – Art and mental illness


Liu, A. Werner, K., Roy, S., Trojanowski, J.Q., Morgan-Kane, U., Miller, B.L., & Rankin, K.P. (2009). A case study of an emerging visual artist with frontotemporal lobar degeneration and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. Neurocase, 15(3): 235–247. doi:10.1080/13554790802633213.


Chatterjee, A., Bromberger, B., Smith II, W.B., Sternschein, R. and Widick, P. (2011). Artistic

production following brain damage: A study of three artists. LEONARDO, 44 5, 405–410.


Other readings, not assigned, but on which the lecture will draw:


Kleiner-Fisman, G. & Lang, A.E. (2004). Insights into brain function through the examination of art: the influence of neurodegenerative diseases. NeuroReport, 15 (6), 933-937.


van Buren, B., Bromberger, B., Potts, D., Miller, B., & Chatterjee, A. (2013). Changes in painting styles of two artists with Alzheimer’s disease. Psychology of Aesthetics, Creativity, and the Arts, 7 (1), 89–94.


Miller, B.L., Cummings, J., Mishkin, F., Boone, K.,Prince, F., Ponton, M., & Cotman, C. (1998). Emergence of artistic talent in frontotemporal dementia. Neurology, 51 (4) 978-982. DOI: 10.1212/WNL.51.4.978


         February 8 – Fiction


Oatley, K. (2016). Fiction: Simulation of social worlds. Trends in Cognitive Sciences, 20 (8), 618 – 628.


Kidd, D., & Castano, E. (2013). Reading literary fiction improves theory of mind. Science, 342, 377–380.


Other readings, not assigned, but on which the lecture will draw:


Wojciehowski, H. & Gallese, V. (2011). How stories make us feel: Toward an embodied narratology. California Italian Studies, 2(1)


Bowes, A. & Katz, A. (2015). Metaphor creates intimacy and temporarily enhances theory of mind. Memory & Cognition, 43, 953 – 963. doi 10.3758/s13421-015-0508-4.


         February 15 – Art and the body

Freedberg, D. & Gallese, V. (2007). Motion, emotion and empathy in esthetic experience. Trends in Cognitive Sciences, 11 (5), 197 – 203.


Montero, B. (2006). Proprioception as an aesthetic sense. The Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism, 64 (2), 231 – 242


Other readings, not assigned, but on which the lecture will draw:


Laland, K., Willkins, C., & Clayton, N. (2016). The evolution of dance. Current Biology 26, R5–R9


Vicary S, Sperling M, von Zimmermann J, Richardson DC, Orgs G (2017). Joint action aesthetics. PLoS ONE, 12(7): e0180101.


February 22 – Reading week – no classes


         March 1 – Cinema


Hasson U. & Frith, C.D. (2016). Mirroring and beyond: coupled dynamics as a generalized framework for modelling social interactions. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B 371: 20150366.


Levin, D.T. & Baker, L.J. (2017). Bridging views in cinema: a review of the art and science of view integration. Wiley Interdisciplinary Reviews: Cognitive Science, 8:e1436. doi: 10.1002/wcs.1436


Ghazanfar, A. A., & Shepherd, S. V. (2011). Monkeys at the movies: What evolutionary cinematics tells us about film. Projections, 5(2), 1 – 25. doi: 10.3167/proj.2011.050202


Students are responsible for understanding the nature and avoiding the occurrence of plagiarism and other scholastic offenses. Plagiarism and cheating are considered very serious offenses because they undermine the integrity of research and education. Actions constituting a scholastic offense are described at the following link:

As of Sept. 1, 2009, the Department of Psychology will take the following steps to detect scholastic offenses. All multiple-choice tests and exams will be checked for similarities in the pattern of responses using reliable software, and records will be made of student seating locations in all tests and exams. All written assignments will be submitted to TurnItIn, a service designed to detect and deter plagiarism by comparing written material to over 5 billion pages of content located on the Internet or in TurnItIn’s databases. All papers submitted for such checking will be included as source documents in the reference database for the purpose of detecting plagiarism of papers subsequently submitted to the system. Use of the service is subject to the licensing agreement, currently between Western and

Possible penalties for a scholastic offense include failure of the assignment, failure of the course, suspension from the University, and expulsion from the University.


Western’s policy on Accommodation for Medical Illness can be found at: 

Students must see the Academic Counsellor and submit all required documentation in order to be approved for certain accommodation:


Office of the Registrar web site:

Student Development Services web site:

Please see the Psychology Undergraduate web site for information on the following:

- Policy on Cheating and Academic Misconduct
- Procedures for Appealing Academic Evaluations
- Policy on Attendance
- Policy Regarding Makeup Exams and Extensions of Deadlines
- Policy for Assignments
- Short Absences
- Extended Absences
- Documentation
- Academic Concerns
- 2017 Calendar References

No electronic devices, including cell phones and smart watches, will be allowed during exams.