Gerald C. Cupchik builds a bridge between science and the humanities, arguing that interactions between mind and body in everyday life are analogous to relations between subject matter and style in art. According to emotional phase theory, emotional reactions emerge in a 'perfect storm' whereby meaningful situations evoke bodily memories that unconsciously shape and unify the experience. Similarly, in expressionist or impressionist painting, an evocative visual style can spontaneously colour the experience and interpretation of subject matter. Three basic situational themes encompass complementary pairs of primary emotions: attachment (happiness - sadness), assertion (fear - anger), and absorption (interest - disgust). Action episodes, in which a person adapts to challenges or seeks to realize goals, benefit from energizing bodily responses which focus attention on the situation while providing feedback, in the form of pleasure or pain, regarding success or failure. In high representational paintings, style is transparent, making it easier to fluently identify subject matter.
Gerald C. Cupchik is Professor of Psychology at the University of Toronto, Scarborough. His research focuses on emotion and aesthetics using quantitative and qualitative methods in a complementary manner in order to analyse how people respond to paintings and the emotional experiences people have while reading literature or watching films. He also works closely with artists to better understand the processes underlying their creative acts.
Prologue; 1. Experiences in life and art; 2. Thinking critically about emotion theories; 3. The depth of affective processing; 4. Emotional experiences as reactions; 5. Antecedents of the motivational action models; 6. Emotional phase theory; 7. Neural underpinnings of emotional experiences and feeling-based actions; 8. The aesthetic imagination; 9. Affective processes and aesthetic reception; 10. The 'aesthetics of emotion' as analogy and metaphor; 11. Creative practices of contemporary artists; 12. The cave artist's share; 13. Studies in aesthetic reception; 14. In search of a unified emotion theory; Epilogue.