Fifth International School On Mind, Brain And Education

2010, August 1-6

Learning, Arts,
and the Brain

Directors: Antonio M. Battro and Kurt W. Fischer
Program officer: MarĂ­a Lourdes Majdalani

Abstract: James Catterall

Artistic youth, the genesis of empathy, and a right hemispheric development hypothesis suggested by the recent work of Ian McGilchrist
In his recent book, Doing Well and Doing Good by Doing Art (2009, I-Group Books), Professor Catterall tracks long-term developments for 12,000 American adolescents to investigate possible effects of intensive engagement in the visual and performing arts during middle and high school (ages 14-18). The most meaningful among his analyses are those trained on low-income students, whose family resources typically would not bring advantages in access to the arts. In one stream of findings, low income students highly involved in the arts as adolescents show comparatively more indications of pro-social and empathic behaviors such as volunteer work on behalf of others as adults. Catterall will present an overview of this study and offer for the review and critique of participants a theoretical explanation for the apparent comparative gains in empathic behavior. The explanation is stimulated by the arguments of Ian McGilchrist in his new book: The Master and His Emissary: The Divided Brain and the Making of the Western World (2009, Yale UP).