Theory of Mind: Why Art Evokes Empathy

We have a sense of empathy with works of art.  If we see gestures in a portrait, we actually almost simulate those gestures in our mind.  We often implicitly act as if we are moving our arms in response empathically to what we see in the painting. 


We also respond empathically to what we think the sitter is experiencing in their head.  So we have what is called “a theory of mind” in which when I look at you, I have a sense of where you’re going and you have a sense of where I’m going. We have an enormous capability by just looking at the person we are interacting with, and particularly if we’re having a conversation, to predict certain aspects of future events simply by looking at them.  This is an extraordinary capability that human beings have.