How the brain deals with novelty and ambiguity: Implications for neuroaesthetics

Elkhonon Goldberg, Brent A. Funk, Kenneth Podell

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations


Much of human cognition is "agent-centered," subjective, and in that sense relative, directed at resolving ambiguity and deciding, "What is best for me". This is very different from "veridical" cognition, directed at finding an objectively correct solution inherent in the task and independent of the agent. Understanding how the brain deals with ambiguity is central to the understanding of brain mechanisms of aesthetic judgment. It is equally important to understand how the brain deals with novelty, since in order to be aesthetically appealing the object of art must possess at least some degree of novelty and ambiguity. The frontal lobes in particular are central to agent-centered decision making and to dealing with novelty. Yet very little is available in the arsenal of cognitive paradigms used in the cognitive neuroscience research and in clinical neuropsychology test design to examine "agent-centered" decision making. The dearth of "agent- centered" cognitive paradigms severely limits our ability to understand fully the function and dysfunction of the frontal lobes. The cognitive bias task (CBT) is an agentcentered paradigm designed to fill this gap. CBT has been used as a cognitive activation task infMRI, SPECT, andEEG, as well as in studies of normal development, addiction, dementia, focal lesions, and schizophrenia. This resulted in a range of findings, which had eluded more traditional "veridical" paradigms, and are reviewed here.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)227-238
Number of pages12
JournalRendiconti Lincei
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 1 2012


  • Agent-centered decision making
  • Cognitive bias task
  • Neuroaesthetics
  • Prefrontal cortex

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Earth and Planetary Sciences(all)
  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)
  • Environmental Science(all)


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