Do we enjoy what we sense and perceive? A dissociation between aesthetic appreciation and basic perception of environmental objects or events

A. K. M. Rezaul Karim, Michael J. Proulx, Alexandra A. de Sousa, Lora T. Likova

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

3 Citations (SciVal)
26 Downloads (Pure)


This integrative review rearticulates the notion of human aesthetics by critically appraising the conventional definitions, offerring a new, more comprehensive definition, and identifying the fundamental components associated with it. It intends to advance holistic understanding of the notion by differentiating aesthetic perception from basic perceptual recognition, and by characterizing these concepts from the perspective of information processing in both visual and nonvisual modalities. To this end, we analyze the dissociative nature of information processing in the brain, introducing a novel local-global integrative model that differentiates aesthetic processing from basic perceptual processing. This model builds on the current state of the art in visual aesthetics as well as newer propositions about nonvisual aesthetics. This model comprises two analytic channels: aesthetics-only channel and perception-to-aesthetics channel. The aesthetics-only channel primarily involves restricted local processing for quality or richness (e.g., attractiveness, beauty/prettiness, elegance, sublimeness, catchiness, hedonic value) analysis, whereas the perception-to-aesthetics channel involves global/extended local processing for basic feature analysis, followed by restricted local processing for quality or richness analysis. We contend that aesthetic processing operates independently of basic perceptual processing, but not independently of cognitive processing. We further conjecture that there might be a common faculty, labeled as aesthetic cognition faculty, in the human brain for all sensory aesthetics albeit other parts of the brain can also be activated because of basic sensory processing prior to aesthetic processing, particularly during the operation of the second channel. This generalized model can account not only for simple and pure aesthetic experiences but for partial and complex aesthetic experiences as well.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)904-951
JournalCognitive, Affective, & Behavioral Neuroscience
Early online date19 May 2022
Publication statusPublished - 31 Oct 2022


  • Aesthetics
  • Affect
  • Attention
  • Beauty-dependent
  • Blindness
  • Cognition
  • Crossmodal
  • Dissociation
  • Independence
  • Modality
  • Neural substrates
  • Nonvisual
  • Perception
  • Task-dependent
  • Top-down, Bottom-up
  • Visual

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cognitive Neuroscience
  • Behavioral Neuroscience


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