Max Planck Institute for Empirical Aesthetics
IDEA Lecture with Michael McBeath
Empirical Ecologically-Based Aesthetics
I will review my research exploring ecologically-based patterns called Natural Regularities, and the related visual and auditory biases that help observers to rapidly and efficiently parse scenes into meaningful objects. I argue that fundamental aesthetic preferences are a consequence of these scene-parsing mechanisms, which can be empirically measured and confirmed. An example of a natural regularity in the domain of vision is the 3-D bilateral symmetry of most living creatures and human artifacts. A related perceptual bias is our preference for a canonical tilted-view of symmetric objects, an orientation that exhibits aesthetic principles like a golden ratio between the projected sizes of the side and front of an object. Examples of natural regularities in the auditory domain include the tendency for acoustic sources to have harmonic overtones, and for such sources to exhibit natural correlations between changes in acoustic dimensions of fundamental frequency, intensity, spectral characteristics, and percussive rate. Related perceptual biases can lead listeners to hear illusory changes in pitch, loudness, timbre, and tempo in cases of music, speech, and animal calls. I will show how the same perceptual biases that help observers efficiently process natural regularities in order to parse scenes into meaningful objects, may also generally lead to fundamental aesthetic preferences in art and music.
Dr. Michael McBeath does research in the emerging area combining Psychology, Engineering, and Perception-Action. He majored in both Psychology and Electrical Engineering for his Bachelor’s degree from Brown University, received a Master’s of Science in Instrumentation from the University of California, and earned his Doctoral degree from Stanford University in Psychology with a minor in Electrical Engineering. Parallel to his academic career, he worked as a research scientist, both at NASA - Ames Research Center, and later at the Interval Corporation, a technology think tank funded by Microsoft co-founder, Paul Allen. Dr. McBeath has been a faculty member in the Department of Psychology at Arizona State University since 1998, where he is also adjunct faculty in Kinesiology, Neuroscience, Life Sciences, Animal Behavior, Electrical Engineering, and the School of Arts, Media, & Engineering. His research has been funded by grants from the Interval Corporation, National Science Foundation, Office of Naval Research, and Global Sports Institute. Dr. McBeath’s work focuses on computational modeling of perception-action in dynamic, natural environments, with specialties that span sports, robotics, music, navigation, animal behavior, and multisensory object perception. His most widely known work is on navigational strategies used by baseball players, animals, and robots. His baseball interception research was published in the journal, Science, his dog Frisbee study was made fun of on Saturday Night Live, and his autonomous ball-catching robot was selected by the New York Times Magazine as one of its ideas of the year. Dr. McBeath is one of the organizers of the ASU Science of Art, Music, and Brain Activity (SAMBA) research group, and as a bonus, he plays a mean harmonica.
Please note that the talk will be held in English.
The IDEA Lectures (Interdisciplinary Debates on the Empirical Aesthetics of Music) aim at bringing together internationally well-known researchers who discuss questions that relate to the production and reception of music from various perspectives. Musicologists from all branches of their discipline take part as do musicians, psychologists, cognitive scientists, sociologists, philosophers and ethnologists.
External guests are welcome.
Please call for registration 069 8300 479-201.