Institut Jean Nicod

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Aesthetics and Cognitive Science 



Contact : Nicole Hall, Jérôme Dokic

Funded by IRIS (Initiative de Recherches Interdisciplinaires et Stratégiques), « Création, cognition, société » (CCS), Paris Sciences et Lettres (PSL).

Practical information / Accessibility



Tuesday 8 October, 15h30 - 17h30

IJN Pavillon Jardin, 29 rue d’ULM, 75005 Paris (you can enter also from 24 rue Lhomond and then follow the directions for Bâtiment Jaurès).

Dustin Stokes (University of Utah)

Perceptual expertise, skill and creativity


Minimally, creativity involves psychological novelty - novelty in thought or action, relative to the agent’s past thought or action - where the agent is non-trivially responsible for the relevant achievement. Achieving vreativity, thus understood, requires skill and imaginations. Of the first, some creative acts/processes involve the execution of highly domain specific skills. Second, often ont must employ imagination of some kind, combining new ideas, applying concepts in innovative ways, taking a new angle or perspective on a familiar problem. This takes cognitive energy : it places substantial demand on working memory. This paper attempts to shed new light on these features of creativity by focusing on empirical literature on percpeptual expertise. That literature employs behavioural, neural, and psychological methods to study elite-level performance of experts in a wide array of domains—radiology, forensics, ornithology, sport, to name just a few. I argue that the best explanation of this range of study and data is that perceptual expertise sometimes involves genuine sensory perceptual improvement, where those perceptual changes depend upon the concept-rich cognitive learning specific to that domain. The expert radiologist does not just make better judgments about the contents of the radiogram, she better sees the radiogram. Perceptual expertise is genuine perceptual expertise. If successful, this explanation can contribute to a naturalistic explanation of creativity. Some creative individuals are perceptual experts within their relevant domains. This perceptual advantage implies an advantage in available cognitive resources, and this latter claim is further evidenced by studies on visual short term memory and task-evoked pupillary response. If the expert painter or elite athlete actually perceives better in her context of expertise (as a result of her previous training), this offloads some of the needed cognitive work to her visual systems, and thereby frees up cognitive load (reducing demands on working memory) to try something new, imagine a new angle, innovate, create.