Program

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Invited Lecturers

Session 1

Dr. Niels Chr. Hansen is an Assistant Professor at Aarhus Institute of Advanced Studies & Center for Music in the Brain, Aarhus University. He is General Secretary of the European Society for the Cognitive Sciences of Music (ESCOM), a member of the Danish Young Academy, and Chief Editor for Empirical Musicology Review. In 2020, he co-founded the global MUSICOVID research network comprising 400+ researchers from 49 countries who studied the role of music during the coronavirus pandemic. Hansen’s research comprises behavioural, computational, neurophysiological, and corpus-based studies spanning a wide range of topics with a special emphasis on expertise and predictive processing of music.

ABSTRACT

What can the expectancy dynamics of melodic cognition, composition, and improvisation reveal about the aesthetic appreciation of music?
Although predictive processing has long been thought to underlie the aesthetic appreciation of music, suitable theoretical frameworks and adequate empirical tools to study this fascinating relationship have only recently started becoming available. Yet, despite fruitful inspiration from cognitive neuroscience and information theory, confirmation and violation of musical expectations can rarely be mapped seamlessly unto concepts borrowed from reinforcement learning and predictive coding theory. Sensory prediction errors, for example, have often been conflated with reward prediction errors. Predicting what the next note might be fundamentally differs from predicting reward value or the source of sensory signals. More music does not in itself imply greater pleasure. Musical expectations rather entail an intricate interplay of dynamic changes in stimulus structure and listener expertise over time.
The emergence of digitally encoded musical corpora and computational tools has allowed music scientists to more clearly dissociate the sometimes complementary roles of retrospective surprise and prospective uncertainty in the cognition, composition, and improvisation of musical melodies. This has crucial ramifications for the understanding of aesthetic appreciation of music in that maximal pleasure appears to be experienced during states of low uncertainty and high surprise or states of high uncertainty and low surprise. In this talk, I will review computational, behavioural, and neuroscientific research in this area, and based upon pertinent findings, I will discuss and expand upon their potential implications for the aesthetic dimension of musical experience.

Dr. Sander van de Cruys is a postdoctoral researcher in the Antwerp Social Lab at the University of Antwerp. He’s also affiliated with the Brain & Cognition department (GestaltReVision) at the University of Leuven. His work explores the framework of the brain as a prediction engine (continuously and proactively anticipating and constructing the experienced world) and its deep consequences for the interplay between cognition and emotion, for example in aesthetic experiences, preference formation, and curiosity. Within the Leuven Autism Research (LAuRes) consortium, he also studies how people with autism monitor and adapt to uncertainty. Website: sandervandecruys.be

ABSTRACT

The comfort of insight

What do people mean when they say that a piece of art (be it literature, visual art, or music) has helped them beat difficult times? Clearly, they do not mean this in the literal sense of ‘helping’: Art does not eliminate the worldly source of suffering; it does not help, like antibiotics do. Helping implies the helping agent has some form of (perceived) control over the causes or circumstances of the distress, and so acts on them to reduce or resolve them. Rather, art provides comfort (distress relief) by modifying our mental states —our construction of the brute, uncontrollable facts of the world. Hence, consolation (of art) has a strong ‘Erzatz’ or compensatory quality to it —replacing or compensating for something hurtful that cannot be removed itself. Consolation is accomplished not by changing the environment but rather its meaning, i.e. by an internal cognitive change causing emotional relief. Similarly, art consoles us in times of distress by changing how the world is being constructed in mind. Observe that this is not simply a matter of concocting a more favorable account of the world. Just consider all the suffering featured in art, or the evil featured in religion, yet another common source of consolation. Nor is consolation a matter of simply ‘folding’ to the prior expectations and familiar concepts of the to-be-consoled party. I will propose that the tension-and-release that is intrinsic to intense aesthetic experiences and to intense epistemic (insight or ‘aha’) experiences, is also at the core of consolation, in that it empowers and (re)focuses one’s actions and values (i.e., an ethical experience). Indeed, the result of consolation is not limited to emotional relief, but is often described as feeling “at home in the world again”, and entails a renewed autonomous agency and motivation to explore a precarious world (and novel ideas) again. As example cases, I will look at how this epistemic-aesthetic-ethic nexus plays out in art, divination, conspiracy theory, and psychotherapy.

Session 2 

Prof. Alice Mado Proverbio has a PhD in General Psychology from the University of Padua. After a Post Doctoral training at the University of California at Davis (Center for Neuroscience, 1993-1994), she became a research scientist at the University of Trieste. She has guided the University of Trieste’s Cognitive electrophysiology Laboratory from 1996 to 2000. Since 2001, she is Associate Professor of Psychobiology and Physiological Psychology at University of Milano-Bicocca, where she teaches Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience  and Physiological Psychology. She founded the “Cognitive Electrophysiology” Lab at the same University in 2003. She received the FULL Professor qualification in 2014. Proverbio’s research activity concerns the neuroscience of music and neuroaesthetics, mirror neurons and empathy. She is the author of two recently published textbooks: “Cognitive Neuroscience of Music” (2019) and “Music Perception and Creation” (2022), published by Zanichelli. Proverbio’s research activity concerns the neuroscience of music and neuroaesthetics, mirror neurons and empathy. 

ABSTRACT

The Neuroaesthetics of Music

We will explore how music, which originated as a form of social communication, is able to convey emotions and aesthetic sensations. Through an interdisciplinary approach, based on biological, neuroevolutionary and psychological data, we will try to unravel the following questions 

I. Interpersonal resonance – Music as a communication tool; II. How the brain processes the melodic profile of speech, vocalizations and instrumental music; III. Are there innate and universal aesthetic sensations and psychophysiological reactions to music? IV. Can music clearly convey precise semantic and affective information? A unified neural model will be presented that considers and explains the nature of some innate and universal effects of listening to music on our brains.

Prof. Vittorio Gallese
The research activity of Vittorio Gallese since the beginning focusesd on the relationship between the sensory-motor system and cognition in non-human primates and humans. In recent years Vittorio Gallese broadened his research interests to the field of cognitive science, investigating the neurobiological basis of intersubjectivity, empathy, language, theory of mind and aesthetics. Vittorio Gallese’s scientific activity is testified by more than 217 scientific publications in peer-reviewed international scientific journals and international scientific edited books.

Prof. Jan Roubal MD, PhD, is an associate professor at Masaryk University in Brno, Czech Republic, where he also works in the Center for Psychotherapy Research. He works as a psychotherapist and psychiatrist. He founded the Training in Psychotherapy Integration and the training Gestalt Studia in the Czech Republic, he also works as a psychotherapy trainer and supervisor internationally. He co-edited three books “Current Psychotherapy”, “Gestalt Therapy in Clinical Practice. From Psychopathology to the Aesthetics of Contact” and “Towards a Research Tradition in Gestalt Therapy”.

ABSTRACT

Resonances in depressive field

With depressive clients, therapists experience loss of vitality and creativity, they doubt about themselves, they lose hope. This can be understood as interpersonal resonance as if the therapists get infected by depression. However, it can also be understood from the field theory perspective where both the client and the therapist are being taken by the dynamics of the depressive field. Results and implications of the exploratory research of therapists experiences with depressive clients will be presented to elaborate the interpersonal and field theory perspectives on resonances in depression.

Session 3

Gianni Francesetti, MD, Psychiatrist, Gestalt Therapist, International Trainer and Supervisor, Adjunct Professor of Phenomenological and Existential Approaches to Clinical Practice at the Department of Psychology of the University of Turin, Italy. He is Co-Director of the International Institute for Gestalt Therapy and Psychopathology—IPSIG and President of POIESIS – Centro Torinese di Terapia della Gestalt. Former President of the European Association for Gestalt Therapy (EAGT) and of the Italian Federation of Associations of Psychotherapy (FIAP). He has authored many books and papers on psychotherapy and psychopathology, including his latest book, Fundamentals of Phenomenological- Gestalt Psychopathology: A Light Introduction (2022), translated in many languages. Address for correspondence: gianni.francesetti@gmail.com ipsig.it

ABSTRACT

Aesthetic diagnosis in psychopathology and psychotherapy.
The aim of this contribution is to describe a diagnostic process in psychopathology and psychotherapy using an aesthetic evaluation. Unlike the classical diagnostic process, which presents a result of comparing clinicians´ observations with an extrinsic diagnostic system (DSM, ICD, etc.), the aesthetic evaluation is a pre-reflexive, embodied and preverbal process. A phenomenological and Gestalt Therapy theoretical frame is used to introduce the concept of the aesthetic diagnostic process. During this process, the clinicians use their own here-and-now presence, which takes part in the co-creation of the shared relational field during the therapeutic session. The clinician becomes an antenna of the intrinsic tensions of the field, i.e. the intentionalities. The diagnosis is not aimed any more to detect the inner functioning of the patient: the clinicians use their sensitivity in order to discover in which landscape they emerge and meet the patients. Here, diagnosis and therapy are coincident. A short clinical example illustrates this perspective.

Prof. Tonino Griffero studied at the University of Turin (where he graduated in Philosophy under Gianni Vattimo’s guidance in 1982) with a work on hermeneutics. Later he received his Ph.D from the University of Bologna (1992) and conducted post-doctoral research in Heidelberg as Humboldt-Fellow(1998–1999). He has been a Researcher of philosophy at the University of Vercelli(1994–1999), then since 1999 an Associate Professor in Aesthetics at the University of Rome „Tor Vergata“. Since 2002 he is Full Professor of  Aesthetics in the same University. He has been (since 2007) the founder and Director of  „Sensibilia-Colloquium on Perception and Experience“. He is Director of a philosophical Journal (“Lebenswelt. Aesthetics and Philosophy of Experience”) and a book series („Atmospheric Spaces“, Mimesis International). His current research includes phenomenology of the lived body and perception and aesthetics of atmospheres.

ABSTRACT

Meeting the Neo-phenomenologic Challenge. Felt Body, Atmospheres and Psychopathology (without psyche!)
Moving from a (new) phenomenological theory of the lived body (Leib), a pathic-atmospherological aesthetics outlines the felt-body‘s constitutive (pre-reflective) role in human experience but especially in aesthetic (aesthesiological) perception. Against every reductionist and introjectionist objectification of the lived experience, every explanatory hypothesis of associationist and projectivist type, this approach ‒ that emphasizes the affective involvement that the perceiver feels unable to critically react to or mitigate the intrusiveness of ‒ seems an adequate investigation of the felt body as sounding board of outside atmospheres and Stimmungen. By means of its specific dynamics and lived “isles”, in fact the felt body feels what happens in the surrounding area without drawing on the five senses and the perceptual body schema, experiences an affective-synaesthetic first impression of the expressive qualities (or affordances) ontologically rooted in environment‘s things and quasi-things. This way felt-bodily isles turn out exactly to be both a tool for sensing the affective radiation provoked by atmospheres and quasi-things, i.e surfaceless „places“ that, communicating with each other and with our consciousness, are themselves quasi-things. 

As is well known, the notion of “atmosphere” has boomed recently in the Humanities. Mostly relying on the neophenomenological radical externalisation of the affective and starting half a century ago from psychiatry (Tellenbach) and philosophy (Schmitz’s phenomenology), the atmospheric approach provides now a wide application in all scientific fields that have to do with human and not strictly functional-measurable parameters. Atmospherology is a part of a larger neo-phenomenological project that aims at challenging every (biological, neurological or physical) reductionism and naturalisation, at better understanding the actual and spontaneous life experiences that we normally describe in terms of conscious self-reflection, self-awareness and first-person perspective (“how one feels in her environment”), and even at finding a better way of living. A reductionist approach, in fact, culpably underestimates the “what is it like” of a lived phenomenon and makes of it nothing but a subjective and irrelevant epiphenomenon. 

A “good” neophenomenological-atmospherological psychotherapy, in particular, should 1) carefully describe the “how” of a self-showing suffering, 2) establish a close link between atmospheres and psychotherapy, given that people in mental distress are probably the most vulnerable subjects (and sounding boards) to atmospheric effects, 3) cooperate with the societal atmospheric theoretical but also practical approach to the health of its psychologically disturbed members. A neo-phenomenology-based atmospheric therapy aims at a) restoring the correct “competitive” felt-bodily dynamics, possibly even through the right distance that is however in its own way a form of felt-bodily communication, b) ensuring the fluid oscillation between (personal) emancipation and regression, c) re-balancing the interconnection between different levels of the personal situation. 

Prof.  Wolfgang Tschacher received his Ph.D. in psychology 1990.
Psychotherapy training in systemic therapy at the Institute of Family Therapy, Munich. Habilitation in psychology and Venia legendi 1996 at University of Bern, Switzerland, professorship in 2002, now professor emeritus at the University Hospital of Psychiatry and Psychotherapy.
His main interests are in psychotherapy process research and empirical aesthetics, with an emphasis on complexity science, embodied cognition, and self-organization. Organizer of the series of ‘Herbstakademie’ conferences on systems theory in psychology and philosophy of mind.  He is member of the board of directors of the Society for Mind-Matter Research. From 2007 to 2010 he was president of the European Chapter of the Society for Psychotherapy Research (SPR).

ABSTRACT

Beauty, Change, and Synchrony
The perennial philosophical problem of the mind-body relationship has become a topic of intense research activity in current cognitive and social science. A variety of empirical studies have resulted, which examined the reciprocity of mind and body in psychology and increasingly also in psychotherapy research. The concepts of Embodiment, Enactivism, Embedded cognition, and Extended cognition, hence ‘4E cognition’, have led to a new understanding of cognition and mind altogether – mental processes should be viewed in their bodily contexts (https://www.embodiment.ch). The embodiment paradigm has also changed our understanding of the interaction dynamics of people, now seen as embodied agents, with implications for the evolution of the therapeutic relationship. Here, in the context of psychotherapy, the nonverbal and physiological synchrony between therapists and patients is concerned and has been found correlated with the their relationship, with positive affect and finally therapy outcome. Psychopathological states such as schizophrenia spectrum and autism spectrum disorders are characterized by reduced interpersonal synchronies. 

But how is synchrony associated with beauty? Recently, we conducted studies of the bodily resonance within concert audiences in the project Experimental Concert Research (https://experimental-concert-research.org/?lang=en). Both movement and physiological synchronies were found to be significantly present in audiences of live classical concerts. In addition, audience synchrony was associated with self-report measures of aesthetic appreciation received from listeners after the performances.

Hence it may be true that synchrony is not only linked with prosocial aspects as found in psychotherapy research, but also constitutes a signature of aesthetic experience. Based on these results, I will attempt to translate back and forth between the fields of empirical aesthetics and psychotherapy research. With the goal of deriving practical implications for psychotherapy, I will discuss open questions: Is there a role of beauty in psychotherapy sessions, and can it promote change? Is nonverbal synchrony always a prosocial signature and thereby helpful? Is it reasonable for therapists to enhance synchrony intentionally?