Your Brain on Art Book Summary - Your Brain on Art Book explained in key points
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Your Brain on Art summary

Susan Magsamen & Ivy Ross

How the Arts Transform Us

4.5 (326 ratings)
17 mins

Brief summary

'Your Brain on Art' explores the intersection of neuroscience and creativity, highlighting the positive impact of engaging with art on the brain. Susan Magsamen and Ivy Ross offer insight into unlocking our creative potential through the appreciation and creation of art.

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    Your Brain on Art
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    Our sensitivity to aesthetics

    Before we get into the different therapeutic benefits that art can provide, we need to ask two important questions. The first is, What is art? And the second is, How do we process art on a physiological level?

    While people have been debating the definition of art for centuries, for our purposes we’re going to cast a wide net. In fact, we’re going to take a cue from the Irish poet John O'Donohue who said, “Art is the essence of awareness.”

    Now this might sound a little cryptic, but in a way, it’s kind of straightforward as well. Art is everywhere. It’s in the pattern of your rug, the shape of your potted plants, and the design of your furniture.

    Magsamen and Ross have a term for this awareness, it’s called having an aesthetic mindset. If you already have a strong aesthetic mindset, you might be the kind of person who frequents art galleries, is often moved by music, and is cognizant of a room’s interior design.

    But whether you’re conscious of it or not, you’re constantly being affected by aesthetics. The color of the walls, the lighting, and the soundscape of the room you're sitting in right now are all having an effect on you. Having an aesthetic mindset simply means that you have an awareness of this relationship and are ready to take advantage of it.

    This brings us to the second question of the physiological effect art has on us. As human beings, we’re constantly processing our surroundings through our senses. What we see, what we hear, what we smell, the temperature and texture of the things we touch – these are the aesthetics of our surroundings, and they’re being taken in and processed on a moment-by-moment basis.

    All of it has the potential to change how you’re feeling. Smells, sounds, and colors can cause your blood pressure to increase or decrease. They can prompt the release of stress hormones. Or they can make you feel calm, secure, and sleepy.

    Most of this is happening on a subconscious level. Neuroscience tells us that only 5 percent of your mental activity is conscious. The rest is happening without you even thinking about it. Your senses are being processed and your emotions are occurring subconsciously. But by increasing your awareness – or your aesthetic mindset – you can take all of this into account and begin using art to make lasting changes to your life and well-being.

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    What is Your Brain on Art about?

    Your Brain on Art (2023) offers remarkable insights into how artistic endeavors and aesthetics – from music and dance to drawing and interior design – can rewire our brains and improve our lives.

    Your Brain on Art Review

    Your Brain on Art (2021) takes an intriguing dive into the intersection of art and neuroscience, offering valuable insights for both art enthusiasts and curious minds. Here's why this book is worth reading:

    • With accessible language and compelling examples, it effortlessly bridges the gap between science and art, making it an engaging and enlightening read.
    • The book explores how art impacts our brains, emotions, and overall well-being, shedding light on the powerful therapeutic effects of creative expression.
    • Through interviews, research, and personal stories, it expands our understanding of art's profound influence, encouraging us to embrace the arts as an integral part of our lives.

    Who should read Your Brain on Art?

    • Art and science enthusiasts
    • Anxious or stressed-out people looking for solutions
    • People curious about the benefits of art therapy

    About the Author

    Susan Magsamen is an assistant professor of neurology at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. She’s also the founder and executive director of the International Arts + Mind Lab at the Center for Applied Neuroaesthetics, which is part of the Pedersen Brain Science Institute at Johns Hopkins.

    Ivy Ross is vice president of design for Google’s hardware product division. She’s also a renowned artist who’s worked for numerous companies over the years, including Calvin Klein, Swatch, and Mattel. Her art and design work has won her many awards and in 2019 she was among the top ten in Fast Company’s “100 Most Creative People in Business” list.

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    Your Brain on Art FAQs 

    What is the main message of Your Brain on Art?

    Your Brain on Art explores the connection between art and the brain, revealing how art has the power to heal, inspire, and transform our lives.

    How long does it take to read Your Brain on Art?

    The reading time for Your Brain on Art varies, but it typically takes several hours. The Blinkist summary can be read in just 15 minutes.

    Is Your Brain on Art a good book? Is it worth reading?

    Your Brain on Art is a fascinating exploration of the transformative power of art. It offers unique insights and a fresh perspective on the benefits of engaging with art.

    Who is the author of Your Brain on Art?

    Susan Magsamen & Ivy Ross are the authors of Your Brain on Art.

    What to read after Your Brain on Art?

    If you're wondering what to read next after Your Brain on Art, here are some recommendations we suggest:
    • A Thousand Brains by Jeff Hawkins
    • On the Origin of Time by Thomas Hertog
    • The Mind of the Artist by William Todd Schultz
    • The Aesthetic Brain by Anjan Chatterjee
    • Steal Like an Artist by Austin Kleon
    • The Creative Act by Rick Rubin
    • Make Possibilities Happen by Grace Hawthorne
    • Coined by Kabir Sehgal
    • Do Hard Things by Steve Magness
    • Reclaim Your Brain by Joseph A. Annibali