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PSY3008 : Art, Mind and Brain

  • Offered for Year: 2019/20
  • Module Leader(s): Dr Gabriele Jordan
  • Lecturer: Professor Anya Hurlbert, Dr Yoav Tadmor
  • Owning School: Psychology
  • Teaching Location: Newcastle City Campus
Semester 1 Credit Value: 10
ECTS Credits: 5.0


To familiarise students with the mechanisms and brain structures underpinning the creation, perception and appreciation of art, with an emphasis on visual art and artistic creativity.

To enhance knowledge of theoretical and practical research issues..

To provide opportunities to acquire in-depth knowledge about selected psychological processes relevant to the producing and appreciating works of art.

Outline Of Syllabus

We will explore the following topics during the course of the module:
•       What is art? What is the function of art? Do artists have special minds/brains?
•       Art and visual cognition. All art is in illusion: how do we interpret images on 2-D canvas? What are the differences/similarities between everyday perception and perception of art? Do artistic conventions tap into the workings of our visual system?
•       Art and edges. Why do people draw? Why are line drawings so effective? What can drawings tell us about ‘thinking’.
•       Art and the representation of space. How does pointillism work? How do artists induce the illusion of depth on 2-D canvas?
•       Art and colour. How has the use of colour changed through the eras and why? Why are certain colour combinations more effective and aesthetically pleasing than others?
•       Art and the damaged eye. Do visual impairments help or hinder the creation of visual art? Did myopia help to invent impressionism?
•       Art and the brain. Is art predominantly processed in the right hemisphere? Are there dedicated neural networks underlying the creation of art? What can we learn from patients with brain lesions? What can we learn from autistic savants?
•       Art and creativity. What is creativity? What are the underlying mechanisms of creativity? What is the link between mental disorders and creativity?
•       Art and synaesthesia. What is synaesthesia? What are its underlying mechanisms? What is the link to creativity?
•       Art and music. What is music? What is it for? What are the biological origins of music?

The module consists of two interlinked and equally important components: lectures and student-led seminars. Lectures set the parameters of the course. Their primary purpose is to direct the students to the relevant reading and to sensitise them to the key points of the topic in question. Seminars are interactive and student-led. Opportunities are given to students to express their own ideas and to get involved in discussions and debates that could lead to further considerations.

Teaching Methods

Teaching Activities
Category Activity Number Length Student Hours Comment
Guided Independent StudyAssessment preparation and completion210:0020:00preparation for presentation and practice exam
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesLecture121:0012:00N/A
Guided Independent StudySkills practice82:0016:00Reading assigned papers
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesSmall group teaching111:0011:00Student lead Seminars: Includes exercises, debates, oral presentations, practice exam
Guided Independent StudyProject work31:003:00Collection of material
Guided Independent StudyIndependent study138:0038:00Revising material for exam
Teaching Rationale And Relationship

The lectures together with the handouts set the parameters of the course. Their primary purpose is to direct the students to the relevant reading and to sensitise them to the key points of the topic in question. The seminars give the students the opportunity to express their ideas to others and to get involved in discussions that would clarify these ideas and lead to further consideration. Students will give their presentations in this forum.
Students are expected to be independent and pragmatic, taking more responsibility for their own learning and skill development as this is a characteristic of Stage 3. A certain amount of independent reading and thinking will also be required beyond the essential reading stipulated for this module.

Assessment Methods

The format of resits will be determined by the Board of Examiners

Description Length Semester When Set Percentage Comment
Written Examination1201A80For more info please see 'Assessment Rationale and Relationship'
Oral Presentation151M20Oral presentation – feedback provided.
Assessment Rationale And Relationship

Written exam - consists of two unseen essays

Rationale and relationship of assessment to learning outcomes:

The oral presentation assignment is both summative and formative, and will be used to assess knowledge, independent learning and understanding of material relevant to the module; the ability to research this material and to organise it into a coherent argument; and the ability to communicate clearly in a formal presentation to a small group. Each student will prepare and deliver one oral presentation on a topic of his/her choosing from a set of topics that complement the lecture material. The presentations will be observed and marked using the criteria adopted by the School of Psychology for oral presentations in stage three to keep the consistency. Students will receive individual and oral feedback.

The examination essays will be used to assess knowledge, independent learning and understanding of material relevant to the module, the ability to integrate this material, to communicate clearly in writing, and the ability for critical thought. In addition, the examination assesses the skills of analysis and reasoning.

FMS Schools offering Semester One modules available as ‘Study Abroad’ will, where required, provide an alternative assessment time for examinations that take place after the Christmas vacation. Coursework with submissions dates after the Christmas vacation will either be submitted at an earlier date or at the same time remotely. The form of assessment will not vary from the original.

Reading Lists