This paper reconstructs the “Arnheim’s puzzle” over the psychology of art. It is argued that the long-established psychological theories of art do not account properly for the observable variability of art, which provide the phenomena of interest whose psychological factors need to be discovered. The general purpose principles of such theories, the ensuing selective sample of art phenomena, and assumption of conventional properties of aesthetic experience make the predictions and the findings of the theories unrepresentative of art. From the discussion of examples drawn from contemporary visual arts and the presentation of the debate on the emergence of the cognitive capacities of art in paleoanthropology, a construct is presented on the specificity of the cognitive capacities of art and its anchoring to perception, which solves the puzzle and has implications for research and teaching psychology of art.
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