Synthesizing Art and Science - A Collaborative Approach to Understanding Intergroup Relations and Contributing to Social Change

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School of Arts, Design and Architecture | Doctoral thesis (article-based)
Degree programme
75 + app. 39
Aalto University publication series DOCTORAL THESES, 91/2024
This thesis examines the vital role artists can play in shaping individuals and societies, emphasizing art as an impactful force that can foster a more inclusive, empathetic world. It explores the concept of synthesizing art and science, suggesting that equal collaborations between these fields can yield innovative solutions to contemporary 'Wicked' problems. This thesis is situated within the interdisciplinary domains of socially engaged research, ArtScience, and artistic research, with a special focus on the relationships between participatory performance art and social psychology.  This research agenda is composed of both the written and artistic components. It presents an analysis of innovative ArtScience interdisciplinary research methods and hinges on the role and efficacy of art, from collective transformation to personal engagement. Component 1 responds to why there exists a need for equal collaborations between scientists and artists, and how such collaborations could contribute to society. Underlining that artists are needed more than ever during challenging times, this study advocates for their crucial integration into all societal and environmental change initiatives. Component 2 shows empirical evidence from multiple studies of how the synthesis of art and science, specifically performance art with social psychology, contributes to improving prosocial behaviors by elevating empathy towards individuals from marginalized groups in different societies. Component 3 presents a tangible example of the synthesis of a social psychology field experiment with participatory performance art. As an artwork rather than an academic article, this component offers an opportunity for experiential understanding through direct emotional and aesthetic engagement, as opposed to merely analytical comprehension. Finally, component 4 illuminates the significance of art for the individual self, positioning narrative-based art as a safe space for emotional exploration, devoid of real-life social consequences.  Drawing upon the dynamic interplay between scientific research and artistic practice, this thesis positions research as the confluence between theory and practice, unearthing new knowledge. The synthesis of art and science in collaborative ventures offers enormous possibilities for innovative research. Beyond this, it has a multifaceted impact—it can educate, influence, and evoke change in individuals and societies in multiple ways.
Supervising professor
Sederholm, Helena, Assoc. Prof., Aalto University, Department of Art and Media, Finland
Thesis advisor
Sams, Mikko, Prof. Emer., Aalto University, Department of Neuroscience and Biomedical Engineering, Finland
ArtScience, interdisciplinary, collaboration, social psychology, applied research, socially engaged research, socially engaged art, performance art, empathy, narrative-based art, transportation, the self, cognitive neuroscience, narrative
Other note
  • [Publication 1]: Einat Amir & Yossi Hasson (2024), Towards Equitable ArtScience Collaborations: Synthesizing Performance Art and Social Psychology for Social Change. Leonardo Journal (accepted, in press)
  • [Publication 2]: Yossi Hasson & Einat Amir (first co-authors), Danit Sobol-Sarag, Maya Tamir, and Eran Halperin (2022). Using performance art to promote intergroup prosociality by cultivating the belief that empathy is unlimited. Nature Communications Journal.
    DOI: 10.1038/s41467-022-35235-z View at publisher
  • [Publication 3]: Einat Amir & Yossi Hasson, Relative Distance (artistic component, peerreviewed and approved), 2021. Performance-Experiment commissioned by Kampnagel Theater, Hamburg, Germany
  • [Publication 4]: Einat Amir, Joshua Sofaer, and Mikko Sams (2022), Act of Fiction - Simultaneously experienced multiple perspectives of (un)reality when engaging with narrative-based art. Leonardo Journal.
    DOI: 10.1162/leon_a_02362 View at publisher