When we experience art, our brains go into overdrive, processing and decoding the incoming information at a phenomenal rate, stimulating our emotions and exciting and inspiring us. But why does art have this effect? Although scientists agree there is no single explanation, there are several reasons that help explain.
Some say art works as a social stimulus, helping us form into groups and enable friendships to develop. Through art, we form opinions and enrich our understanding of one another, forming bonds and connections. It’s a collective glue that enables us to get along in close proximity and large communities.
Others argue that appreciating art is a vestige of evolution and an essential reason for our ancestor’s survival. That understanding form and lines, color and texture, abstract ideas and complex smells was once the thing that also helped early humans to understand and avoid danger, to solve a problem and invent tools, or to eat the right food and remain healthy.
Still more say that because the appreciation of art is a distinctly subjective activity, it helps with our personal development, our emotional growth, or our individual understanding of the world around us. Broadly, art helps us develop the mental tools by which to live our lives.
One thing is for sure - art scratches an itch within us humans in a way that nothing else can. Whatever the complex combination of reasons that conspire in our brains, the emotional response we experience when looking at a painting, reading a book, or listening to a song, is a powerful and wonderful thing. So, let’s leave it to the scientists to figure out why we like what we like, and we can concentrate on loving art in all its extraordinary and inspiring forms.