How the Arts enhance Learning Ability

“How can we develop techniques in learning to engage the emotions? Learning should not be driven by fear but by desire. Why are the arts considered separate from the sciences? What were the first arts? How did the scientific enquiring mind arise?”-d’Amboise

Despite the divergence between arts and sciences, a growing body of quantitative research suggests that the learning of science may be enhanced by relationships with the arts. Contemporary research is beginning to explore explicit neuroscientific hypotheses concerning the effects of activities such as, drawing, visual esthetics, and dance observation.

Visual art learning is reliant on a complex system of perceptual, higher cognitive, and motor functions, thus suggesting a shared neural substrate and strong potential for cross-cognitive transfer in learning and creativity. Within just a few weeks, for example, human infants can imitate and action such as sticking out the tongue in response to someone sticking out his tongue at them – how does the infant know just what motor action plans to implement based only on a visual input? Mirror neurons may account for this ability, translating visual input to motor output, underlying a connection between visual arts and movement, and the auditory arts and music. From pre-historical times, visual art has been a form of communication deeply imprinted in human nature; the act of experiencing art and esthetic appreciation in the “receiver” also has the power of cross-cognitive effect any time during individual development. Compositional universals have been shown to govern the design of visual artworks across ages and cultures (Arnheim, 1988; Tyler, 1998, 2007; Ramachandran and Hirstein, 1999).

The artist is not a person endowed with free will who seeks his own ends, but one who allows art to realize its purposes through him. As a human being he may have moods and a will and personal aims, but as an artist he is 'man' in a higher sense - he is 'collective man,' a vehicle and moulder of the unconscious psychic life of mankind. (Carl Jung, Psychology and Literature, 1930)