The objective of the Max Planck Institute for Empirical Aesthetics is to arrive at a deeper understanding of the mechanisms, elicitors and functions of aesthetic liking and aesthetic preferences: Who appreciates what and why and under which conditions? And what functions do aesthetic practices and preferences serve for individuals, social groups and societies?
The research focuses primarily on the foundations of aesthetic evaluation, perception and experience. Key topics include:
Despite its impressive foundation by Gustav Theodor Fechner (1801-1887), empirical aesthetics has largely remained a marginal field of research, both in academic psychology and in the study of the arts. The mission of the Max Planck Institute for Empirical Aesthetics is to provide a new institutional and scientific framework for coordinated and interdisciplinary research into aesthetics. In a world in which aesthetic experiences, shared aesthetic preferences and aesthetically motivated decisions have become ubiquitous aspects of everyday life, systematic, basic research into the nature and functions of aesthetic practices, judgments and motivations is no mere luxury, but an important research goal.
In this effort the institute faces the challenge of further developing and integrating theories, hypotheses and models from very different disciplines, most notably from psychology, the traditional poetics of the individual art forms, musicology, art history, literary studies, biology, sociology, and the neurosciences. The mission of our institute is based on the assumption that progress towards an integrative aesthetic theory can only be achieved through a strong focus on basic research and joint interdisciplinary efforts.