How Art Works

In her new book How Art Works: A Psychological Exploration (Oxford University Press, 2018), Boston College Professor of Psychology Ellen Winner takes on a number of questions about the arts, such as “What makes something art?” and ‘Why do we seek out and even cherish sorrow and fear from art when we go out of our way to avoid these very emotions in real life?” Also, ‘How do we decide what is good art? Do aesthetic judgments have any objective truth value?” In a piece for the New Yorker, Yale psychologist Paul Bloom calls Winner’s new book “exhilarating” because she draws on research in psychology, including studies from her own lab, to provide some answers to these questions. Winner directs the Arts and Mind Lab, which focuses on cognition in the arts in typical and gifted children as well as adults. She is the author of more than 100 articles and three other books–Invented Worlds: The Psychology of the ArtsThe Point of Words: Children’s Understanding of Metaphor and Irony, and Gifted Children: Myths and Realities.

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