International Journal of Art & Design Education

The Role of the Arts in Cognition and Curriculum

Volume 5.1   1986



It is argued that the arts provide a unique way of understanding the world and are essentially cognitive activities. The model of mind that has been uncritically adopted by the American education system militates against this view and consequently the arts have not enjoyed a high status. The senses are important in concept formation, as are images; in this way concepts are not linguistically based. Different forms of representation can be seen to give equivalence to conception, and be vehicles for externalising concepts. It is suggested that there are three forms of representation which enable an individual to externalise and thus communicate conceptual understanding: Mimetic, expressive and conventional; artists often use all three. It is asserted that conceptions of intelligence and literacy must be rooted in the senses. Forms of representation that convey meaning are not limited to those traditionally used in science, and educational institutions should recognise this. The cultivation of literacy in the arts can augment students┬╣ general ability through facilitating insight, imagination and sensitive perception.