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Cognitive Futures of the Arts and Humanities – A Reassessment of Results and Articulating New Possibilities

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“The Cognitive Futures of the Arts and Humanities” is part of a network of conferences that have taken place previously at the Universities of Durham, Oxford, New York, and others. It brings together scholars and scientists using interdisciplinary methods to study art and various cultural practices.

This year’s conference will take place at the University of Warsaw, between 12-16 July, 2023 and its title is:
“Cognitive Approaches to Art: A Reassessment of Results and Articulating New Possibilities”.


Yanna Popova
(Centre Q: Centre for Research on Culture, Language, and Mind)

in association with
Agnieszka Libura, Joanna Jurewicz

Wednesday, July 12


Registration and Welcome Reception: The Column Hall, History Faculty, Main Campus

Thursday, July 13


Registration: Old Library, BUW, Main Campus


Welcome Address, Main Hall


Keynote: Professor Ellen Dissanayake


Coffee Break


Parallel Sessions 1A and 1B

1A: Thematic Panel – Applying the Cognitive Sciences to Theatre and Performance Practices

Acting Near and Far
Darren Tunstall (University of Surrey, UK)

‘Translating’ Language(s) in Theatre History Classes
Rhonda Blair (Southern Methodist University, USA)

From Description to Method: Reflecting on Implicit Issues in Cognitive Theatre and Performance Studies
Maiya Murphy (National University of Singapore)

1B: Thematic Panel – Cognitive Legal Humanities

Gestures in the courtroom
Amy Cook (Stony Brook University)

If it pleases, it’s legal. Unless it’s not. A hungry problem
Ellen Spolsky (Bar-Ilan University, Israel)

“The facts in this case are simple”: or, how courtroom drama fools the viewer
Lisa Zunshine (University of Kentucky)


Lunch: The Column Hall, History Faculty


Parallel Sessions 2A and 2B

2A: Poetic Language – Abstraction, Anticipation, and Visualisation

Where Do Abstract Concepts Come From and What Can Poetry Contribute to the Question?
Margaret Freeman (Myrifield Institute for Cognition and the Arts, USA)

Seeing the Forest for the Trees: Visual Poetry, Navon’s Paradigm, and Neurohumanities
Amelia McConville (Trinity College, Dublin)

The phenomenological and neural impacts of reader response ‘task sets’ on poetic language processing: A state of the art
Patrick James Errington (University of Edinburgh)

2B: Music, and Film – Intertextuality, Metaphor, and Gesture

Toward a Cognitive Model of Intertextuality in Film
Fryderyk Kwiatkowski (University of Groningen)

Cognitive Approach to Music Drama Analysis: multimodal metaphors of love and death in Monteverdi’s lamento
Sarka Havlickova Kysova (Masaryk University, Brno)
Svitlana Shurma (Tomas Bata University Zlin)

Deaf Characters, Hearing Viewers: The Motor Theory of Speech and Plemya (The Tribe, 2014)
Bohdan Nebesio (Brock University, Canada)


Coffee Break


Parallel Sessions 3A and 3B

3A: A Look Towards the Empirical – Social Cognition, Reading, Time Perception

The perception of passing time during reading – an empirical study
Ewa Nagorska (University of Warsaw)

Affective ‘We’ experience, Schizophrenia & Synchronicity: Towards a mental health care proposal
Camilo Enrique Sanchez (Poznan University)

Social Reading – Social Cognition
Pascal Nicklas (University of Mainz)

3B: Literature and Reading: Embodiment, Subjectivity, Tolerance

How Reading about Bodies can Shape our Mental Landscape and Philosophical Outlook
Naomi Rokotnitz (University of Oxford)

Formal experiments and innovative models of the mind in contemporary fiction
Joanna Klara Teske and Grzegorz Maziarczyk (The John Paul II Catholic University of Lublin)

Cognitive Literary Studies and Tolerance: George Eliot’s Daniel Deronda between Flexibility of Perspective and Certainty of Belief
Nina Engelhardt (University of Stuttgart)

Free Time in the Evening

Friday, July 14


Keynote: Professor Tomasz Kubikowski


Coffee Break


Parallel Sessions 4A and 4B

4A: Thematic Panel – The value of embodied cognition as a stable concept among varied styles and approaches in contemporary and historical theatre

The disorder of love and the love of disorder: embodied moral argument in the 1602 performance of Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night
Theatre, Dance, and Performance
Richard Kemp (Indiana University of Pennsylvania)

Grotowski’s Theatre, “The Holy Actor” and the Body
Yanna Popova (Centre for research on Culture, Language, and Mind, Warsaw University)

Temperament and the Roots of Interpretation
Vladimir Mirodan (University of the Arts, London)

Response from Tomasz Kubikowski – Theatre Academy, Warsaw

4B: Thematic Panel – Dancing and 4E Cognition: Perspectives across the Domains

The Social Nature of Cognition in Dance: Impact on Children and Youth from a 4E Perspective
Miriam Giguere (Drexel University)

Breaking the Habit
Christian Kronsted (Merrimack College)

Skilled Intentionality in the Dance Classroom
Matthew Henley (Teachers College, Columbia University)

Enactive Aesthetics and the Argentine Tango Dance Experience
Robin Congrad (Independent Scholar)


Lunch: The Column Hall, History Faculty


Parallel Sessions 5A and 5B

5A: Dance and Extended Cognition – Aesthetics, Synergy, and the Ethics of Learning and Unlearning

Affecting Performers’ Cognitive and Perceptual Abilities: The Ethics of Learning and Unlearning in Dance Generating Systems
Pil Hansen (University of Calgary)

Aesthetic Experiences in Extended Cognition
Heinrich Falk (University of Aalborg)

5B: Early Modern and Modern Literature and Cognition: Affect, Embodiment, and Introspection

Introspection During Reciting Friedrich Hölderlin’s Ode „Timidity“
Thomas Eder (University of Vienna)

An Historicist Approach to Affect and the Embodied Mind: Sabuco, Cervantes, and the Early Modern View on Emotions and Human Development.
Isabel Jaén Portillo (Portland State University)


Coffee Break


Keynote: Professor Merlin Donald

Free Time in the Evening

Saturday, July 15


Keynote: Professor Alva Noe


Coffee Break


Parallel Sessions 6A and 6B

6A: Music, Pre-verbal and Verbal Narrative: Evolutionary Roots, Mimesis, and Ecological Behavior

The evolutionary roots of music and their consequences for neuroaesthetics
Piotr Podlipniak (Adam Mickiewicz University, Poznan)

Investigating the Emergence of the Human Capacity to Experience Preverbal and Nonverbal Narratives by Means of Music, Song, and Dance
Alejandra Wah (University of Groningen)

Limits of narrative: the rise and fall of mythic cognition
Ronit Nikolsky and Barend van Heusden (University of Groningen)

Musicking as ecological behavior: the view from “4E”
Michael Golden (Soka University of America)

6B: Cognitive Dance Studies: Participation, Narration, Memory

Thinking behind the doing of dance: A bibliometric review of cognitive dance studies
Edward C. Warburton (University of California, Santa Cruz)

The Square Tango for thirty years: Curating successful aging at tea dances
Freya Vass (University of Kent)

Narrations of togetherness in improvised dance duets
Julian Zubek (University of Warsaw) and Klara Lucznik (University of Plymouth)


Lunch: The Column Hall, History Faculty


Parallel Sessions 7A and 7B

7A: Visual Art Research: Perspectives from Neurodiversity, Topology, and Critical Analysis

Neurodiversity, form and expression in visual art
Ilona Roth (The Open University, UK)

Visual art seen through mathematics and gestalt theory
Jacek Rogala (University of Warsaw) with co-authors: Emil Dmitriuk, Joanna Dreszer, Shabnam Kadir, Marek Kuś

Multimodal Critical Analysis of the Discourse of Art: A reception study report
Ewa Olszewska (Adam Mickiewicz University, Poznan)

7B: Art, Language, and Philosophy: Semiosis, Systems Theory, Creativity

The Sign we Missed, or: Why Ernst Cassirer Never Wrote a Philosophy of Art as Symbolic Form
Barend van Heusden (University of Groningen)

Texts from the Chinese Room: large language models and first-person experience
Joanna Raczaszek-Leonardi (University of Warsaw)

Creativity, Art, and “not knowing”: in a moment of cognitive experience
Raphael Sieraczek (King’s College London)


Coffee Break


Parallel Sessions 8A and 8B

8A: Cognitive Literary Studies: Immersion, Subjectivity, Literary Characters

Towards Embodied Defamiliarization: Immersion, Predictive Processing and Cognitive Narratology
Bartosz Stopel (University of Silesia, Katowice)

Literary Characters as Model People: Investigating the Cognitive Heuristics
Omri Moses (Concordia University, Montreal)

8B: Acting: Creativity and Acting Styles

Creative Cognition and Histories of Screen Acting Styles
Dan Leberg (University of Groningen)

How many ruble notes did Kostya have in the package?
Martina Musilová (Theatre Faculty of the Academy of Performing Arts, Prague)


Closing Remarks and Announcements


Conference dinner, The Ball Room, Tyszkiewich-Potocki Palace, Main campus (dinner paid separately)

Ellen Dissanayake (University of Washington, Seattle)

A Naturalist Aesthetics: Art from the Bottom Up

Philosophers of art and aesthetics have more or less stopped trying to define their subject. There is no agreement on answers to questions like “What is art?,” “What is the difference between art and non-art?,” or “Is art necessary?” These questions all begin from the unexamined assumption that art is a “thing”: a painting or sculpture, a musical score or performance, a poem, a building, a dance. I can answer these questions using a new perspective anchored in evolutionary biology and ethology that considers art as something that all humans do—an evolved predisposition, “a behavior of making ordinary reality extraordinary (or ‘special’).” For this universally observable behavior, I have coined the term “artification.”

Like the summary of any complex new concept, this approach may sound simplistic, naïve, or even suspect, as can the proposed biological source of this behavior, which I suggest arose in ancestral mother-infant interaction. To support this “Artification Hypothesis,” I have over five decades integrated information from a number of fields (e.g., paleoarchaeology, neuroscience, developmental and cognitive psychology, physical and cultural anthropology) with knowledge about human arts and ideas about arts from dozens of modern, traditional and, as far as possible, ancestral societies. I also propose a suite of five “aesthetic operations,” based in ritualized behaviors of other animals, that artifiers use in their work and that humans naturally are predisposed to respond to.

Merlin Donald (Queen’s University, Kingston)

Art, the Brain, and the Evolution of the Human Mind

Art is a cognitive product of the “middle kingdom,” namely the place where brain and culture interact. It is a product of the “higher” functions of the mind, which refers to functions that have access to basic functions like sensation and attention but are driven by goals and insights that are more abstract and contextual in nature. Thus, an image created by Warhol is built from basic visual features, but the idea driving the image refers to abstract social conditions many steps removed from the colors, edges, and lines defining the image. The “art” in the image has very little to do with the basic features from which it is constructed. In that sense, art usually engages mandatory features in some way, and the physiological responses of the brain are necessarily triggered by those features, but these do not define the image as art. Art only exists in our mental universe due to cultural norms and expectations which both viewer and artist assimilate from personal experience.

Moreover, art is an identifiably and uniquely human feature. It is found nowhere else in the Biosphere. A reductive approach that is not built upon this fact will inevitably fail as a theory, or even a subsidiary theory, of art.

A three-stage co-evolutionary theory of the genesis of art is reviewed here, in which the interaction between brain evolution, cognition and culture are examined in relation to their historical appearance of various artistic forms in human prehistory and history. This is the unique story of a primate brain’s evolutionary transformation. The primate evolved originally in a standard mammalian ecological framework, but it has gradually clawed its way out of its original immersion in nature, by creating a representational universe which eventually broke free of nature, and that demanded a radical shift in our species’ adaptive obligations, away from nature and toward to a new set of standards whose demands are often contrary to the natural survival demands originally imposed upon our species.

The growth of this novel representational universe can be defined by two opposing forces that are inextricably related to each other: technology and art. These two forces, very broadly defined, are useful in an approach that is both cross-cultural and time-bound, or historical.

The first stage of human cognitive evolution was triggered over three million years ago by a revolutionary change in the motor systems of the brain, through which hominins evolved a new purpose for movement: the abstract representation of ideas, and the construction of a public means of sharing mind. This development gradually imposed cascading levels of new cultural-cognitive exchange systems that drove the evolution of new media for expanding the hominin representational universe. The three proposed stages coincided with the emergence of specific kinds of art, including many forms which reflect the simultaneous co-existence and interaction of several stages at the same time. These will be reviewed.

Tomasz Kubikowski (Theatre Academy, Warsaw)

‘Thou, Nature, art my goddess.’
Theatre between instruction and selection

The paper summarises twenty years of my reflection on the notion of ‘performance’, explains the definition of performance I have proposed, and presents some consequences of acknowledging this definition.

I formulated fundamental insights in The Principle of the Nibelung (2004). There, I mainly referred to the concepts of Gerald Edelman, with particular stress on his opposing recognition against cognition, degeneracy against optimisation, and selection against instruction, in the light of the Darwinian theory as Edelman understood it and employed it in his research. I found that Edelmanian principles on which consciousness operated can be well interpreted within the framework of the broad definition of performance proposed by Richard Bauman. Hence comes my understanding of performance as the clash of selection processes with the processes of instruction.

This places performance as the modus operandi of all the creatures endowed with consciousness, striving to survive. As performance precedes any discourse, it cannot be adequately defined or described. We can only try to simulate it, and dramatic theatre appears as a particular means of such simulation, embedding performance within a performance, or ‘squaring performance.’

I apply my theoretical findings, locating these hidden mechanisms in the work of theatre, recorded in its scenarios (like King Lear) or its techniques and skills (like in Stanislavsky’s System). Finally, I give a short glimpse at the topics on which I have worked recently.

Alva Noe (University of California, Berkeley)

Perception as a relationship

In this paper I explore the idea that perception is a love-like relationship with people, situations, and things. Love is an epistemic emotion, and perceiving a manner of concern, or so I argue. I show how such an approach opens up new ways of making sense of long-standing puzzles about perception. I also explore the ways this idea grows naturally out of “the enactive approach to perception,” as I have developed this in previous work (e.g. Action in Perception, 2004; Varieties of Presence, 2012; Strange Tools 2015); I argue that a “relationship” conception has advantages over what is sometimes called “the relational view” (Campbell, 2002).

These are all hotels in the vicinity of the conference venue, which is the main campus of the University of Warsaw, situated on Krakowskie Przedmieście street in the heart of the city centre.

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One of the closest hotels (12 min walk) within the middle range category is Gomada Centrum ***/****: www.gromada.pl

There is a discount rate for conference attendees and you will need to quote the password: centreq when booking. You can also use the link: https://booking.profitroom.com/pl/hotelgromadadomchlopa/details/offer/414326?code=centreq&no-cache=&currency=PLN quoting the same password.

Please note that there will be building work going on outside this hotel in July between the hours of 9am till 5 pm during the week. Also note that there are two discounted rates quoted in the offer: for the days 12-13 July and 14-15 July. This is due to the fact that Pink is having a concert in Warsaw on July 16 so a lot of the hotels are beginning to get booked. I also advise booking a business class (****) room in this hotel as this type of room has air conditioning and it can get very hot in July in Warsaw.

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For other hotels, please see the list below and use password: Centre Q when booking

Sofitel Warsaw Victoria *****

Novotel Warszawa Centrum ****

Hotel Mercure Grand ****

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For Motel One which is within 10 min walk from the conference venue, please mail your reservation to res1.warchop@motel-one.com which will be open till 31 May 2023, quoting password: Centre Q

Motel One ***

As a conference attendee you will receive at least 10-15% discount on the prices of the hotels, but always, please, check other special offers for the days you are booking.


1. Registration

We look forward to welcoming you to the international Cognitive Futures in the Arts and Humanities 2023 Conference in Warsaw.

Conference registration begins from 5.30 pm on Wednesday 12 July. Please go to the big gate at the entrance to the main campus of the University of Warsaw on Krakowskie Przedmieście 26-28, Warsaw 00-927 (19). Walk straight on until you reach the Faculty of History on the right (14), which will be signposted. The registration and welcome reception will take place in the Column Hall (Sala Kolumnowa) on the ground floor. On Thursday, Friday, and Saturday, registration will be in the building of the Old University Library – main campus (Stary BUW) (7) between 8-9am and during the breaks. We anticipate a crowd on Monday morning. Please arrive as early as you can.


2. Address and contact details

The address of the main campus is:

26-29 Krakowskie Przedmieście
Warszawa 00-927

For directions or other questions regarding your arrival, please email: cognitivefutures2023@uw.edu.pl or centrumq@uw.edu.pl or call

3. Arriving by air and by bus

If arriving at Warsaw Airport, you can take a direct bus, number 175, which stops directly in front of the University main campus (“University” bus stop). Most of the recommended hotels are situated within a short walking distance from there.

4. Parking if arriving by car

There is no parking available at the main campus. If you arrive by car, we suggest you ask your hotel for parking availability.

5. Book Display

Speakers and Chairs are invited to bring to the conference any copies of books, articles and/or chapters on cognitive themes that they’ve published (or are about to publish, proofs welcome). We shall have a table set up to display these.

Places worth visiting and restaurants

Guided Walking Tour of Warsaw Old Town

morning of July 16th (included in the conference fee)

Warsaw’s Old Town delights visitors with its colourful tenement houses and the unique atmosphere of its narrow streets. It has been entered on the UNESCO World Heritage list.
You will be able to see the Royal Castle, where the Constitution of 3 May was passed – the first in Europe. On Castle Square stands the column of King Sigismund III Vasa, who in the 16th century moved the capital of Poland from Krakow to Warsaw. The Old Town Square is the oldest and one of the most charming squares in Warsaw. It was laid out at the turn of the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries, destroyed after the WWII and completely rebuilt. In the middle of the square stands a statue of the Warsaw Mermaid, the emblem and guardian of the city.

You can also see the barbican and the bell on Kanonia street, take a stroll along the old city walls and take a photo of the Vistula from the observation point at Gnojna Góra. The cathedral houses the tombs of the medieval Mazovian princes, the last king of Poland, Stanisław August Poniatowski, and the outstanding pianist and politician Ignacy Jan Paderewski.

Drinks Reception in the Column Hall (Main University Campus)

July 12th at 17:30 (included in the conference fee)

Conference dinner (The Ball Room, Tyszkiewich-Potocki Palace, Main campus)

July 15th (not included in the conference fee)

Visits to the Chopin Museum

morning of July 16th (not included in the conference fee)

Visit to the Polin Museum of Jewish History

morning of July 16th (not included in the conference fee)


The conference registration will take place between 1 June and 5 July 2023.

The registration fee includes welcome reception on July 12th, coffee breaks and lunches on July 13th, 14th and 15th and a guided walking tour of Warsaw Old town on the morning of July 16th, as well as all conference materials. The conference dinner on July 15th is payable separately, as are the visits to the Chopin Museum or the Polin Museum of Jewish History on July 16th.

The registration fee is as follows:

  • registration fee
    • early bird (registration from June 1st to June 25th) — 750 PLN
    • standard (registration from June 26th to July 5th) — 880 PLN
  • Conference dinner (registration from June 1st to July 5th) — 180 PLN
  • Guided Tour – Old Town (registration from June 1st to July 5th) — Free
  • Visit to the Chopin Museum (registration from June 1st to July 5th) — 50 PLN
  • Visit to Polin Museum of Jewish History (registration from June 1st to July 5th) — 50 PLN

Registration form


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