Study finds that beauty requires thought
Experiencing beauty requires thought, while pleasures, like eating or sex, can be beautiful, a new study says.
The research was designed to test a question that has long preoccupied philosophers such as Immanuel Kant who claimed beauty requires thought, unlike sensuous pleasure, which, he said, can never be beautiful.
“We find that beauty, when it happens, is strongly pleasurable, and that strong pleasure is always beautiful,” says researcher Denis Pelli of New York University. “Strong pleasure and beauty both require thought.”
Pelli and fellow NYU researcher Aenne Brielmann asked 62 people to indicate how much pleasure and beauty they felt while they saw an image, tasted a candy, or touched a soft teddy bear. Participants then rated their experience of each object on a four-point beauty scale.
In another round of the experiment, participants were asked to repeat what they’d done earlier, this time while they were distracted with a secondary task.
Distraction didn’t change the experience of viewing non-beautiful objects but diminished the experience of beauty, which does require thought.
Also, about 30 percent of participants said they’d definitely experienced beauty after sucking on a candy or touching a soft teddy bear.
“Our findings show that many other things besides art can be beautiful–even candy,” Brielmann says. “But for maximum pleasure, nothing beats undistracted beauty.”
The findings show that although beauty subjective and ephemeral , it can still be measured and mathematically modeled and has practical applications, the researchers say.
“These are important insights for people who want to create beauty, such as artists or museum curators,” Brielmann added. “You should, for example, not distract people in museums if you want them to find beauty in the art.”
Source: Cell Press