Aesthetics of the Brain

During seventh grade, my science fair project was on the idea of the “Golden Ratio” symmetry rule. This rule seemed to be represented throughout nature in leaves and plants. Various scientists had theories in which the Golden Ratio rule was applied to faces, and their perceived attractiveness. At the time, I was very interested in society’s standards for beauty and how we perceived these standards. Subjectivity has a huge presence in the scale of beauty and attractiveness, but to have a set theory that formed this subjectivity to a science was fascinating to me at the time. As a thirteen year old, my project was unique in the sense that it had nine faces that I had photoshopped for all of my surveyed data. I had never thought back on it until very recently.

Recently, I attended a lecture on “Aesthetics of the Brain” by Dr. Anjan Chatterjee whereas he discussed how aesthetics impact the brain in day to day life. Many of these lectures hosted in the LPAC have provided incredible insights into various topics hosted by specialists on their area of expertise. In this case, the overarching question seemed to be, “What do people find attractive?”

The systematic properties of the world seem to be mediated and connected through to the nervous system. Explicitly, it seems that humans respond and have aesthetic experiences from a combination of triggers, emotional value, cultural background, and the sensory motor systems. I considered the ways that aesthetic and our opinions on appearance can impact our choices through with consumer goods, and media representations throughout our modern history.

Artist brain with paint strokes stock vector. Vincent-Van brain.
(Cr: PennToday)

In comparing various subjects, the face had the most agreement between people in the case of attractiveness, and there seemed to be less agreement on architectural and art aesthetics for what was beautiful or not. People don’t always seem to have have a good judgement on their own implicit bias when comparing those who believe they have more judgement for ‘less beautiful’ people or not. In certain contexts, it seems as if something that has distance would be less emotionally impacting with space and time. In aesthetic contexts, the person still feels control when faced with negative emotions about people from afar, and can embrace the bitter mixed with the sweet to make a more powerful third-person experience, such as in horror movies or disaster film.

I found this lecture very profound, especially in our current times of being so connected as social media raises the bar of beauty aesthetics. The lectures that are offered on our campus have a lot of variety and always welcome the whole campus and the public. Accessibility to these events are so important, and I definitely recommend taking advantage of these resources.

I’ve always paid a lot of attention to media, representation of various characters in movies and shows, and how attractiveness is presented in publications. It is a tricky topic to tackle, as beauty and face seem to be very personal on an individual level. However, I find hearing more perspectives on the emotional values of art allows myself another outlook on my own learning path here at Swarthmore!

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