This post has been bouncing around in my ahead for a week or so, given that many of our readings include claims or discussion of our sensual perceptions. So, our sensual perceptions, which I will refer to as perceptual faculties from here on out, are those like like sight, hearing, touch, taste, and smell. Theses are the faculties we all have, unless someone is other-abled, and they are the faculties by which our interaction with the external world are mediated. That is, we have our cognitive processes (thinking), and we have our perceptual processes (sensual engagement). We make sense of our perceptual experiences through our cognitive processes.

The thing about our perceptual faculties is that they sometimes deceive us. Think of that time where you thought you saw your friend walking down the street, maybe you even said “hello”, and it turns out to be someone else who is perceptually similar to your would-be friend. These perceptual abilities are further influenced by our cognitive capabilities, especially memory and learning. If I think I see a bird and exclaim” Thats’ a gold finch!” I am relying on my perceptions (sight), as well as my knowledge and memory of what a gold finch is. Yet, that gold finch could quite easily turn out to be a  yellow cardinal, which is distinguishable from the gold finch only by a slightly  different beak shape. In this case, I have mistakenly come to a judgment about the gold finch and possibly went as far as to claim I had a certain type of aesthetic experience. Both outcomes are false.  This is why describing aesthetic engagement as having a visceral component is problematic. Claiming to have had an aesthetic experience (or even a phenomena) when reacting to a some sensory stimulus ignores the important role cognition plays in the meaning-making of aesthetic experiences.

“The first weakness stems from the fact that the aesthetic processing model differs in important ways from our common experience of the aesthetic: as I have argued, it is too steeped in information processing theory to fit with an ordinary person’s experience.

“Likewise, the reduction of holistically experienced phenomena (e.g., emotion) into constituent, measurable parts is also alien to the common aesthetic experience.”

Here, Jeff brings up my argument, but talks about the more holistic experience we as people seem to have when we make aesthetic judgments. I wanted to add the problem of the deception of our perceptions as a weakness to the aesthetic processing model. Jeff makes this point a bit earlier in the paper when he covers what some of the body of aesthetic literautre says about aesthetic experience/response:

“It can educate our perception and challenge and develop our cognitive abilities (e.g., reasoning, sense-­making,learning) in worthwhile ways. An emphasis on active, rather than passive computer use has long been advocated in the work of HCI researcher Yvonne Rogers (2006), and while she doesn’t invoke the language of aesthetics, she clearly is thinking along comparable lines.”

The bit about educating our perceptions, to me, is a response to the limitations of our perceptual abilities. Our perceptions need trained, particularly for specific domains. The ability for an art critic to pick out a fake Van Gogh from a real one is evidence of the cognitive work that is done in the honing of our perceptual abilities. Since Tractinsky takes a layperson viewpoint of what aesthetics is, at least definitionally, I claim that his argument downplays the importance of our cognitive development of our perceptual abilities.

Advertisements