Marcos Nadal

Marcos Nadal obtained his degree in Psychology at the University of the Balearic Islands, and his PhD in Humanities and Social Sciences (Human Cognition and Evolution Program) (2007). He has been employed at the Department of Psychology of the University of the Balearic Islands since 2004, and occupied a lecturing position from 2010 to 2012. Since then he has been Assistant Professor at the Department of Basic Psychological Research and Research Methods of the University of Vienna. Since their creation in 2001 he has been a member of the Laboratory of Human Systematics and the Human Evolution and Cognition research group. The main objective of that group was the advancement of our understanding of distinctively human cognitive traits. Marcos Nadal’s main research has centered on the evolution, the neural correlates and function of cognitive and affective processes involved in aesthetic preference and art appreciation, as well as moral judgment and metaphoric language. His research has been continually funded through 8 competitive projects since 2001. He has published 29 articles in peer-reviewed journals and 18 book chapters. He has also 51 conference contributions. He is member of the Spanish Society for Evolutionary Biology, the International Association for Empirical Aesthetics, and Section 10 of the American Psychological Association: Psychology of Aesthetics, Creativity and the Arts. He serves on the editorial board of the two main journals in the field of psychology of art and aesthetics: Empirical Studies of the Arts and Psychology of Aesthetics, Creativity and the Arts.

Title of Talk:

Teaser: The hallmarks of true art—few today would deny this—are evident in the European Upper Paleolithic parietal paintings, such as those at Chauvet (dated to around 30.000 years before present), Lascaux (around 17.000) or Altamira (close to 15.000). However, as archaeological excavations have progressed outside the European continent researchers have begun questioning the notion that art, symbolic thought, and behavioral modernity appeared in Europe at such a late time. For instance, we now know that ochre had been used for coloring in general, and body painting in particular, tens of thousands of years earlier in several locations across Africa and the Near East. Evidence is accumulating also for an early development of engraving, beadwork, and music. In fact, there is growing evidence that our species expressed itself through color, ornaments and other symbolic means, wherever it settled in the world. With the probable exception of Neandertals, there is little evidence of such an intense and consistent interest in color and ornamentation in earlier or contemporary hominin species. From the very beginning, thus, our species engaged in artistic and aesthetic activities. Such behaviors seem to be inherent constituents of our human nature. “Humans”—Lorblanchet (2007) wrote—“are by nature artists and the history of art begins with that of humanity”. Adornment, embellishment, and art are intrinsically linked with our species; they constitute an important part of our biological and cultural heritage. The challenge, thus, is to explain the biological foundations of such a unique trait, and to understand how, in interaction with the forces of cultural development, it led to the astounding variety of aesthetic expression around the world today. Answering this question is, in fact, the general goal of the cognitive neuroscience of aesthetics.


Marcos Nadal Roberts