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Unformatted text preview: ducing peak shifts in an abstract “color space”—brain maps in
which adjacent points are mapped in color rather than Cartesian space. Hence the effectiveness of artificially heightened
“nonrealistic” colors of their sunflowers or water lilies. These
two artists also deliberately blurred the outlines to avoid distracting attention from the colors where it was needed most.
Other artists may choose to emphasize even more abstract attributes such as shading or illumination (Vermeer).
And that brings us to my fourth law—the law of isolation or
180 the artful brain A simple outline doodle of a nude by Picasso, Rodin, or
Klimt can be much more evocative than a full-color pin-up
photo. Similarly, the cartoon-like outline drawings of bulls in
the Lascaux Caves are much more powerful and evocative of
the animal than a National Geographic photograph of a bull.
Hence the famous aphorism “Less is more.”
But why should this be so? Isn’t it the exact opposite of the
first law, the idea of hyperbole, of trying to excite as many “ahas” as possible? A pin-up or a Page Three photo has, after all,
much more information. It’s going to excite many more areas in
the brain, many more neurons, so why isn’t it more beautiful?7
The answer to this paradox lies in another visual phenomenon: “attention.” It is well known that there cannot be two
overlapping patterns of neural activity simultaneously. Even
though the human brain contains a hundred billion nerve
cells, no two patterns may overlap. In other words, there is a
bottleneck of attention. Attentional resources may be allocated
to only one entity at a time.
The main information about the sinuous, soft contours of a
Page Three girl is conveyed by her outline. Her skin tone, hair
color, etc. are irrelevant to her beauty as a nude. All this irrelevant information clutters the picture and distracts attention
from where it needs critically to be directed—to her contours
and outlines. By omitting such irrelevant information from a
doodle or sketch, the artist is saving your brain a lot of trouble.
And this is especially true if the artist has also added some
peak shifts to the outline to create an “ultra nude” or “super
181 the internet and the university This theory can be tested by doing brain imaging experiments comparing neural responses to outline sketches and caricatures versus full-color photos. But there is also some striking neurological evidence from children with autism. Some of
these children have what is known as the savant syndrome.
Even though they are retarded in many respects, they have one
preserved island of extraordinary talent.
For example, a seven-year-old autistic child, Nadia, had exceptional artistic skills. She was quite retarded mentally, could
barely talk, yet she could produce the most amazing drawings
of horses and roosters and other animals. A horse drawn by
Nadia would almost leap out at you from the canvas. Contrast
this with the li...
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This document was uploaded on 09/24/2013.
- Summer '09