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Research Article

Degrees of Attention in Experiencing Art


Ancuta Mortu

Centre for Art and Languages, École des hautes études en sciences sociales, 96, bd Raspail, 75006 Paris, FR
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This paper examines gradients of attention in relation to aesthetic appreciation. My main claim is that we should leave open the possibility that aesthetic response might be triggered by stimulations taking place far from the centre of one’s focused attention. In support of this claim I first discuss the notion of ‘periphery of attention’ and the challenges that it poses to contemporary psychological theories of aesthetics. I provide four criteria for differentiating between several types of attentional processes and then proceed to single out the characteristics of non-focal types of attention(-related) processes with varying intensity such as pre-attentive processing, the mere exposure effect and psychic overtones. Finally, I reassess the periphery of attention in the light of its relation to aesthetic appreciation. I hold that given certain constraints such as repeated exposure, perceptual learning, encoding in long-term memory, and possibility of retrieval, subdued, inconspicuous forms of stimulation can elicit aesthetic responses.
How to Cite: Mortu, Ancuta. “Degrees of Attention in Experiencing Art”. Estetika: The Central European Journal of Aesthetics 55, no. 1 (2018): 45–66. DOI:
Published on 01 Mar 2018.
Peer Reviewed


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