The science of beauty is simpler than you might expect
Famed poet John Keats once wrote, “a thing of beauty is a joy forever,” though he certainly was not the only writer to illustrate our fascination with beauty in words.
Poets, philosophers, writers, and psychologists have long looked at what draws us to beauty, but recently a new study examined the concepts beauty with science.
Researchers from New York University conducted an analysis of beauty and found that the driving factors behind how we respond to and process something aesthetically pleasing are much simpler than was previously realized.
“It is widely assumed that the experience of beauty requires prolonged contemplation. But our primer reveals that a fraction of a second is enough,” said Aenne Brielmann, the lead author of the study.
The results were published in the journal Current Biology.
The research is part of a growing field of study called empirical aesthetics which is a branch of psychology that delves into the experiences of beauty and art.
Trends by themselves can’t dictate consumer buying motivation, as companies must also work to create products and services that appeal to the public’s drive to own beautiful things or improve personal features.
For the study, the researchers analyzed writings on beauty from Plato, Oscar Wilde (19th-century novelist and playwright), Alexander Baumgarten (18th-century philosopher), and Gustav Fechner (psychologist).
“Beauty is famously subjective and supposed to be intractable by science, but some of its key properties follow simple rules,” said Denis Pelli, a co-author of the paper. “Philosophers have long supposed that the feeling of beauty is a special kind of pleasure. Yet, our analysis of research in the field shows that the feeling of beauty may merely be a very intense pleasure, not otherwise special”
The researchers found that while symmetry can enhance beauty, it doesn’t mean that there isn’t room for personal tastes and subjectivity.
Instead, the researchers found that, as philosophers from centuries past claimed, beauty is a feeling of pleasure. When we’re faced with something beautiful, it stimulates activity in the pleasure centers of our brain.
The results, according to the researchers, could help better explain what motivations drive consumer spending and decision making.