Thesis Info

Thesis Title
A Unitary Model of Intense Aesthetic Experience in Art and Science
Melvin L. Alexenberg
2nd Author
3rd Author
Doctor of Education
Number of Pages
New York University
Thesis Supervisor
Prof. Prabha Sahasrabudhe (Art)
Supervisor e-mail
Other Supervisor(s)
Prof. Morris H. Shamos (Physics); Prof. Janice L Gorn (Psychology)
Language(s) of Thesis
Department / Discipline
Interdisciplinary: Art, Science, Psychology
Languages Familiar to Author
URL where full thesis can be found
art, science, psychology, creativity, aesthetics
Abstract: 200-500 words
This study develops a unitary model of aesthetic experience in creative process in art and science. The model is derived from the researcher’s in-depth interviews of prominent artists and scientists. Ten scientists who were elected to the National Academy of Science and ten artists listed in Who’s Who in American Art were interviewed. Their descriptions of their intense aesthetic experiences in their creative work in their respective fields of science and art were analyzed using the technique of a posteriori content analysis in which the categories of analysis are derived from the content of the twenty transcribed interviews. The chi-square test statistically demonstrated that there was no significant difference between the descriptions of intense aesthetic experience in art and in science. The conceptual model was constructed having three components: verbal, graphic, and mathematical. The verbal component is a composite description of the creative process incorporating the different facets of aesthetic experience as described by the artists and scientists. The structure of the graphic component is based upon Venn diagrams modified in the direction of Ross Mooney’s model of creativity and Kurt Lewin’s field model. The mathematical component is a description of the model in the language of set theory. The intense aesthetic experience was found to be divided into three successive phases: pre-climactic, climactic, and post-climactic. The pre-climactic phase is a period of undifferentiated conation and receptive striving that facilitates the broad scanning of large numbers of possible relationships. Periods of involvement alternate with periods of detachment and feelings of anxiety are coupled with self-confidence. The climactic phase is reached when the artist or scientist becomes aware of a new major relationship that causes feelings of surprise and elation. The post-climatic phase is a period in which artists and scientists attempt to communicate the new relationship. It can be a period of letdown from the elation of the climactic phase or a tempered continuation of the elation felt as aesthetic glow.