The Arts of the Hidden: An Essay for the Left Hand

  • Alan KayEmail author
Part of the Cultural Psychology of Education book series (CPED, volume 2)


Jerome Bruner wrote essays both to put forth his ideas, and as a vehicle for thinking. Many of the best ideas for cognitive psychology in the 20th century, and especially for education, came from these thought pieces, and they greatly influenced the present author. Jerry’s “essays for the left hand” were about the arts, less formal and more speculative. To celebrate Jerry, we attempt a “left handed” peek at the “hidden arts” inspired by his approaches and perspectives. To avoid trying to define “Art”, we look instead at emotional reactions when we transition from the mental context we think is “reality” to another point of view, and especially when and how we are helped to make the transition by something in the world around us. This can be easy to deal with if the new point of view was one we already had but was blocked by our limitations for simultaneous attention, or it can be quite shattering—and often resisted—if the new point of view was not anywhere in our previous “reality”.Most of the traditional Arts are “in our senses”, i.e. sensual, sensical, etc.: touch, taste, visual, auditory. Einstein’s world view was changed by a compass he was given as a child where he realized: “… something deeply hidden had to be behind things”. Much of the important content of Science, Mathematics, and even Engineering—are relationships, often in terms of dynamic systems—are quite hidden in this sense, yet fluent practitioners report the same kinds of “aesthetic emotions” as for the traditional Arts: it is likely that how one gets at and expresses “what is deeply hidden” constitute new great Art forms at least equal in depth to the traditional forms of the past. Since our form of government was set up as a systems design backed by a democracy— and much of what is powerful and dangerous in the world is in the form of systems whose properties, and sometimes existence, are hidden—it is as vital for all citizens to get fluent in the “Arts of the Hidden” as it is for them to learn to read and write. Questions are asked about whether and how the “Arts of the Hidden” can be learned and taught generally to society, and several examples are given to motivate further explorations.


Art Science Context Learning Society 


  1. Ausubel, D. (1978). Educational Psychology: A Cognitive View (2nd ed.). Holt McDougal.Google Scholar
  2. Blood, A., & Zatorre, R. (2001). Intensely pleasurable responses to music correlate with activity in brain regions implicated in reward and emotion. In Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America (Vol. 98, No. 20, pp. 11818–11823), Sep 25, 2001.Google Scholar
  3. Bacon, F. (2000). The New Organon (1620). Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  4. Bruner, J. S., & Goodman, C. C. (1947). Value and need as organizing factors in perception. Journal of Abnormal and Social Psychology, 42, 33–44.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Bruner, J. S. (1960). The Process of Education. Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
  6. Bruner, J. S. (1962). On Knowing: Essays for The Left Hand. Harvard/Belknap Press.Google Scholar
  7. de Hamel, C. (1986). A History of Illuminated Manuscripts. Phaidon.Google Scholar
  8. Dow, P. (1991). Schoolhouse Politics: Lessons from the Sputnik Era. iUniverse.Google Scholar
  9. Drake, S. (1975). The role of music in Galileo’s experiments. Scientific American, 232(6).Google Scholar
  10. Feinberg, A. (2014). Liner Notes for his CD: Fugue State. Steinway & Sons.Google Scholar
  11. Gardner, H. (2012). Truth, Beauty and Goodness Reframed: Educating for Virtues in the Twenty-First Century. Harvard Club, Boston,
  12. Hampton-Turner, C. (1981). Maps Of The Mind. Collier/Macmillan.Google Scholar
  13. Heinlein, R. A. (1941). “Universe” in Orphans in the Sky. G. P. Putnam’s Sons (1964).Google Scholar
  14. Hindemith, P. (1952). A Composer’s World: Horizons and Limitations: The Charles Eliot Norton Lectures 1949–1950, Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
  15. Huron, D. (2008). Sweet Anticipation: Music and the Psychology of Expectation. Bradford Books.Google Scholar
  16. Kahneman, D. (2011). Thinking, Fast and Slow, Farrar, Straus and Giroux.Google Scholar
  17. Kay, A. (2015). Aspen Institute’s “Art Summit” at the Kennedy center: “Science and Technology as Art”:
  18. Kay, A. (2005). Squeak Etoys learning and doing.
  19. Kay, A. (2013). The future of reading is the future of learning difficult to learn things (page 4), In B. Junge, Z. Berzina, W. Scheiffele, W. Westerveld & C. Zwick (Eds.), The Digital Turn, Design in the Era of Interactive Technologies.
  20. Kay, A. (1990). User interface: A personal view. In B. Laurel (Ed.), The Art of Human-Computer Interface Design.Google Scholar
  21. Koestler, A (1967). The Act of Creation, a Study of the Conscious and Unconscious in Science and Art, Dell Book.Google Scholar
  22. Korzybski, A. (1933). Science and Sanity: An Introduction to Non-Aristotelian Systems and General Semantics. Lakeville, Conn: Institute of General Semantic Press.Google Scholar
  23. Maxwell’s Equations Illuminated,
  24. McDermott, L. C. and the Physics Education Group Univ. Washington.
  25. Miller, G. (1956). The magical number 7 plus or minus 2: Some limits on our capacity for processing information. Psychological Review, 63(2), 81–97.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Walter, J., & Miller, W. J. (1959). A Canticle for Liebowitz, Lippincott.Google Scholar
  27. Minsky, M. L. (1988). The Society of Mind. Simon & Schuster.Google Scholar
  28. Minsky, M. L. (2006). The Emotion Machine. Simon & Schuster.Google Scholar
  29. Nathan, G. J. (1960). The Magic Mirror. Knopf.Google Scholar
  30. New York Times. (May 14, 2015).Google Scholar
  31. Paine, T. (1776). Common Sense. Dover.Google Scholar
  32. Plato, The Phaedrus, (Oxford World’s Classics), Oxford University Press (2009).Google Scholar
  33. Whitehead, A. N. (1997). Science and the Modern World. Free Press; Reissue edition.Google Scholar
  34. Wolf, M (2006). Proust and the Squid. Harper Perennial.Google Scholar
  35. YouTube. (2014a). Mrs Flexer’s surprise party.
  36. YouTube. (2014b). Man with hammer attacks policewoman.

Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Viewpoints Research InstituteLos AngelesUSA

Personalised recommendations