Call for Abstracts: Art and Affect in the Predictive Mind


The conference:

We are delighted to invite contributions for ‘Art and Affect in the Predictive Mind’, a two-day international and interdisciplinary conference that will be held at the University of York, UK, on 24th and 25th September 2020. Deadline for submissions: 24th May 2020.

The conference will bring together philosophers, art historians and cognitive scientists for the first systematic exploration of the rich and still largely uncharted interactions between predictive processing and aesthetic experience.

Keynote speakers:

    • Karl Friston, University College London
    • Ladislav Kesner, Masaryk University
    • Claudia Muth, Otto-Friedrich-Universität Bamberg
    • Diana Omigie, Goldsmiths, University of London
    • Sander Van de Cruys, KU Leuven
    • Johan Wagemans, KU Leuven

The Theme:

Predictive processing (PP) is an emerging framework at the cutting edge of theoretical cognitive science, and its philosophical implications are currently being hotly debated. This wide-ranging approach describes the human brain as an embodied probabilistic model of the world, constantly generating predictions about the causes of its sensory states and updating itself when a prediction error is encountered, in an effort to maintain a sustainable and homeostatic exchange with its environment. This prediction error minimization process is often taken to be an imperative of every biological system and a possible unifying principle for understanding perception, action, attention, experience and learning.

Recently, PP has attracted the attention of a number of scholars working in philosophical aesthetics and in the psychology of art. A growing body of research is linking beauty and aesthetic pleasure with the need of the predictive agent to resolve uncertainty about its sensory states. According to this view, artworks are essentially uncertainty-resolving, epistemically-rewarding streams of information that gain their satisfying character by continuously affording competing predictions about possible outcomes and then dispelling uncertainty over such predictions. What is emerging from the applications of this intuition to several art forms is a promising way to unify artworks as diverse as a painting, a symphony, a novel, a film and a cathedral under a common analytical framework, and a fresh reconceptualization of long-debated issues in aesthetics such as the nature of aesthetic pleasure, the beholder’s share and the cognitive value of art.

In the meantime, art and aesthetics are becoming increasingly interesting subjects for PP advocates. Artworks (especially paintings, musical pieces, narratives) are beginning to be seen as powerful tools to investigate the fundaments of the predictive brain, as they afford a unique perspective on how predictions are formed and deployed in the processing of richly structured sensory streams. On the other hand, traditional notions of philosophical aesthetics such as that of disinterestedness are challenging bedrock ideas of the PP framework and are animating a discussion that can lead to a better understanding of such issues as affect, valence, reward, motivation and exploratory behaviours for the predictive agent.

We are looking for well-informed contributions that might be of interest to an interdisciplinary audience. Topics include but are not limited to:

    • PP and Bayesian accounts of specific art forms (visual art, music, narrative, literature, etc.);
    • Differences and commonalities between prediction error minimization dynamics in different art forms;
    • Prediction error minimization, positive affect and aesthetic pleasure;
    • Prediction error minimization, insight and ‘Aha’ experience;
    • Expectations, surprise and emotional response in aesthetic experience;
    • The role of negative affect in the enjoyment of art from a PP perspective;
    • PP accounts of suspense, rhythm and narrative tension;
    • The ways in which aesthetic experience illuminates or challenges PP accounts of novelty-seeking, curiosity and exploratory behaviours;
    • The ways in which art and aesthetics can shed light on underexplored issues in PP such as affect, valence, emotion and conscious phenomenal experience;
    • The potential of art as a useful paradigm to investigate PP in the brain;
    • The ways in which active inference and top-down processes in PP can inform the debate in aesthetics on the beholder’s share (Gombrich) and the historicity of vision, and vice versa;
    • Bayesian model-updating and the cognitive value of art.

Submission Guidelines:

Submissions should be sent in the form of 400-500 word abstracts in Word or PDF format to by 24th May 2020. Abstracts must be written in English and prepared for blind review. In the body of your email please include your name, institutional affiliation, and contact information. Final papers should be suitable for 30 minutes presentation followed by a 15 minutes discussion.

We adopt the Good Practice Policy recommendations of the British Philosophical Association and the Society for Women in Philosophy ( We therefore especially encourage women and members of other under-represented groups to submit and we will take diversity into account when making decisions for inclusion in the programme.

Important Dates:

    • Deadline for submission: 24th May 2020
    • Notification of acceptance: 7th June 2020
    • Conference date: 24th-25th September 2020


  1. B.: We are monitoring closely the evolving situation of the Covid-19 pandemic. For the time being, in the absence of precise predictions, we have decided to leave the date of the event as it is, trusting the projections that predict a significant drop of the disease before autumn this year (and a possible new increase in winter). Should a postponement be unavoidable, we will issue a notice in due course and we will consider abstracts already received for the postponed conference.

Organising Committee:

    • Jacopo Frascaroli (Department of Philosophy, University of York)
    • Firat Altun (York Music Psychology Group, University of York)
    • Monika Axmannova (Department of History of Art, University of York)
    • Tracey Davison (Department of History of Art, University of York)
    • Genevieve Stegner-Freitag (Department of History of Art, University of York)

Further information:

The conference will be free and open to all.

Information about venue, travel and accommodation is available at:

We aim to make the conference as accessible as possible, in line with the BPA/SWIP Guidelines for Accessible Conferences. Disabled parking is available, and the venue (including toilet facilities) is wheelchair-accessible. The conference room is equipped with induction loops. Other accessibility requirements can be provided upon request, including but not limited to: a signer, a sighted guide, formatted materials (large print, Braille, etc.), food and water for assistance animals, and extra presentation time. Please do not hesitate to contact the conference organisers to discuss accessibility requirements.

All questions and correspondence should be addressed to the conference organising team at:


VSAC 2019: Visual Science of Art Conference 2019

VSAC 2019: Visual Science of Art Conference 2019
Leuven, Belgium, August 21-24, 2019

Dear colleagues,
It is my pleasure to announce the details regarding this year’s edition of VSAC, incl. the preliminary program and the call for submissions.

Call for submissions

The 7th edition of the Visual Science of Art Conference (VSAC) is an interdisciplinary conference intended to bring together vision scientists and visual artists to discuss joint interests in how vision works and how it affects the visual pleasures we get from art and images. VSAC started as a satellite meeting to the European Conference on Visual Perception (ECVP), but over the years it has gained its own flavor and dynamics. Special effort will be made to also attract academics from disciplines other than vision science (e.g. art history, visual studies, cultural studies, philosophy of art, computer graphics, biology, physics, …) as well as established and young artists and art students. We have added a large number of special events to facilitate cross-talks between artists and scientists (e.g., meet & greet, tutorials, integrated symposia, workshops, arts-science dialogues, and an extensive exhibition program.

For more information on VSAC 2019, visit .

Submission Guidelines

Everyone who wishes to present at VSAC will first need to be registered. Information about registration can be found on the conference website.
The word limit for all abstracts is 250 words. Supplementary material can be uploaded as a PDF (possibly including links to websites, movies, …).
Participants can be the first author of only one abstract of the same submission type.

All accepted abstracts will be published as conference proceedings in the journal Art & Perception (ISSN: 2213-4905). A special issue with a selection of full papers derived from the conference will also be considered.

The following submission types are possible:

Scientific contributions, describing progress in an empirical study on a scientific topic at the intersection between visual science and art. A solid review of a relevant body of scientific literature or a report of substantial progress in a theoretical line of work is also possible.

Artistic contributions, usually in the form of an original piece of visual art such as a painting, lithograph, etching, graphic design, photograph, film, sculpture, digital artwork, cross-media artwork, installation …

Art-Science dialogues, taking the form of a joint submission between a scientist and an artist, ideally presenting work resulting from a close collaboration.

Important dates

The conference will be held in Leuven (Belgium) on August 22-24, 2019.
The deadline for abstract submissions is May 15, 2019, 23:59 CET (i.e., UTC + 1h).
A notification of decision will be provided to first authors by June 15, 2019.


VSAC 2019 topics of interest include but are not limited to:

  • Visual art
  • Visual perception of art
  • Empirical aesthetics (psycho-aesthetics, neuro-aesthetics)
  • Art history relevant to visual science of art
  • Visual studies relevant to visual science of art
  • Philosophy of art relevant to visual science of art
  • Computer graphics relevant to visual science of art

Submission types

There are 4 types of submissions.

1. TALK preferred

Standard talks are limited to 15 min (12 min talk + 3 min Q&A). Because we can probably not accommodate all requested talks, authors submitting in this category are assumed to be willing to present a poster in case their abstract is not accepted for a talk. Selection is by the Scientific Committee, based on abstract reviews by an official Abstract Review Committee (consisting of a mixture of our own staff, faculty and postdocs, as well as regular reviewers of previous VSAC editions). Selections will be based on the scientific quality of submissions (original research, conducted according to the best methodological standards, interesting findings and discussion) as well as thematic coherence of the session. In addition, we aim to balance age, gender and geographic distribution.

2. POSTER only

Posters are valued as highly as short talks because they are better suited for in-depth discussion and receiving feedback on ongoing research. They will receive sufficient time and space in the program to get the attention they deserve. Poster sessions will be preceded by 1 min blitz presentations in the main lecture hall. Selection is by the Scientific Committee, based on abstract reviews by an official Abstract Review Committee (consisting of a mixture of our own staff, faculty and postdocs, as well as regular reviewers of previous VSAC editions). Selection criteria will be sufficient scientific quality and fit with the aims and scope of the conference. If the budget allows for it, we will provide Best Poster Awards for presenting PhD students (e.g., 1 per session). Award criteria will be scientific quality (original research, conducted according to the best methodological standards, interesting findings and discussion) as well as poster layout (visual efficiency and elegance). Selection will be done by an ad hoc Poster Award Committee consisting of a subset of the Abstract Review Committee.

3. ART contribution

We invite a number of established artists to present their work at VSAC. We have selected several great venues, ideally suited for presentation of artwork, all within walking distance from the city center and from STUK (, the main venue for the scientific program. We will include a short description of the invited artists and art works on the VSAC website as soon as possible. In addition, we invite art contributions through a call for submissions, which is open to established as well as emerging artists. All submissions consist of a short description of the nature of the work and why this would be interesting to VSAC attendees. If artists have specific topics or questions they want to discuss with other artists and scientists during the meeting, they can add these here as well.

In addition, artists can upload a PDF with supplemental material of their art work (e.g., portfolio, website, images or video material).

Finally, artists can specify the desired presentation circumstances in terms of required space, lighting, …

Artworks will be selected based on their quality and fit with the overall aims and scope of the conference, as well as the fit with the other art works presented jointly. The team responsible for the selection consists of two artist-scientists (Stefanie De Winter and Wendy Morris), and Christina Seyfried (Cultural Office KU Leuven), all of whom have considerable experience with art-science cross-over projects and exhibitions. This team can rely on advice from Wim Lambrecht (a highly experienced curator from LUCA School of Arts, Brussels), Geert Bouckaert (President of the Commission of Contemporary Arts, KU Leuven), Stéphane Symons (member of the Commission of Contemporary Arts, KU Leuven, with experience as a curator) and Johan Wagemans (regular VSAC attendee with a lot of experience with art-science projects and exhibitions).

4. ART-SCIENCE dialogue

We will do all we can to foster a continuous dialogue between artists and scientists during the complete program. In addition, we open up the possibility to submit specifically as a pair of an artist and a scientist. The scientist can submit a regular science contribution (talk or poster, options 1 or 2 above) and the artist can submit a regular art contribution (option 3 above). They can refer to each other’s contribution to clarify the connection and we, as organizers, can then ensure that the connection is facilitated by scheduling and organizing the sessions appropriately. Moreover, a specific art-science dialogue session could be organized, if we receive enough high-quality proposals of this type. Here we would require an abstract (submitted as option 1) highlighting the collaborative work, adding supplemental material about the artwork as needed.


For more information on VSAC 2019, visit .
All questions about submissions can be emailed to .

On behalf of the scientific and organizing committee,

Johan Wagemans

University of Leuven (KU Leuven)
Department of Brain & Cognition
Laboratory of Experimental Psychology
Tiensestraat 102, box 3711
B-3000 Leuven

Mark your calendar: VSAC 2019 Leuven August 21-24, ECVP 2019 Leuven August 25-29

The Arts and The Brain: Psychology and Physiology Beyond Pleasure

arts and the brain

A whole new volume of Progress in Brain Research, edited by Julia F. Christensen & Antoni Gomila, devoted to the psychology and neuroscience of art:

Progress in Brain Research Volume 237, Pages 2-484 (2018)

The volume includes 22 chapters written by an amazing line-up of contributors:

The Arts, Brain and Evolution
1. Art, Symbolism and the Evolution of the Brain
2. Emergence of early art and the evolution of human culture
3. On the interaction between cultural and biological evolutionary processes in generating artistic creativity

The Arts and Psychology
4. The nature of aesthetic experience of art
5. Art appreciation as an emotional process – beyond aesthetic experience
6. The Singular Experience: Characterizing the Emotional Response to Art Beyond Pleasure
7. An empirical paper on audience responses to film

The Arts and Physiology
8. Why we like what we like? Tracking the neurophysiological responses linked to aesthetic appreciation
9. The arts as a multisensory experience
10. Interceptive predictions and aesthetic relatedness to images
11. How artists represent visual processes

The Arts and the Brain
12. Art and Brain, and integrative overview
13. Seeking Salience in Engaging Art: A Short Story about Attention, Artistic Value, and Affective Neuroscience
14. New insights from the neuroscience of dance
15. Embodied aesthetics in the visual and the performing arts

The Arts and Biology
16. Music, dance and other art forms: new insights into the links between hedonia (pleasure) and eudaimonia (well-being)
17. A systematic review of the biological impact of music
18. Biology and aesthetics in music and the visual arts
19. Alexithymia, arts and health

Arts Expertise and learning
20. Developmental perspectives on the social and emotional role of music and dance
21. Music Education and the Brain
22. Dance learning among adolescents and young adults: Insights from brain imaging and behaviour
23. Is there a moral bettering through the arts?


See a preview of the book here!

The Arts and the Brain: Psychology and Physiology beyond Pleasure, Volume 237, combines the work of an excellent group of experts who explain evidence on the neural and biobehavioral science of the arts. Topics covered include the emergence of early art and the evolution of human culture, the interaction between cultural and biological evolutionary processes in generating artistic creation, the nature of the aesthetic experience of art, the arts as a multisensory experience, new insights from the neuroscience of dance, a systematic review of the biological impact of music, and more.