The Experimental Psychology of Beauty

By C. W. Valentine | Go to book overview

Chapter I INTRODUCTION

The values of psychological studies of beauty

It should be made clear at once that in the present author's opinion, the main value of the studies which we shall be engaged in is to satisfy that ineradicable curiosity that man has about the workings of his own mind, even if he does not think that may serve any practical purpose. How gripping the study of aesthetic enjoyment and beauty can be is shown by the fact that it has been a topic for debate among philosophers and lovers of beauty for over two thousand years.

A distinguished psychologist in the early part of this century did indeed assert that psychology can enunciate truths which may help the artist in his creative work. But in the present stage of the development of the science, the psychologist can hardly hope to instruct an artist of real power how better to do his work, though the artist may be led to understand more fully the reasons why certain things which he has done "instinctively", as he may say, were good things to do, and why things he avoided would have spoilt the beauty of his work and the pleasure of those who saw it.

Sometimes, however, an artist may deliberately make use of psychological ideas; for example, some modernistic artists have made use of what they think is sound psychology of unconscious processes and have deliberately used certain symbols to indicate these. Here, at least, the professional psychologist may help to put the artist right if he has gone astray. This we shall discuss a little more fully later in this chapter and again in the chapter on "Modern Art".

Some practical value from the study of the psychology of beauty may be derived by those who instruct the young in art or seek to develop their appreciation of beauty. An understanding, for example, of what kind of things in pictures, music or poetry appeal

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