What is beauty and what causes it in our brain?

What is beauty and what causes it in our brain?

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Or at least so said  Francis Bacon, famous philosopher and pioneer of the scientific method. But what do we really know about this overwhelming feeling? A  new article published in the journal ‘ Current Biology ‘ (Cell Press) reviews some of the most outstanding reflections on beauty from both a philosophical and scientific point of view. In this meta-analysis,  Aenne A. Brielmann and  Denis G. Pelli analyze how the study of beauty has been approached. An element that, after all, determines a large part of our lives.

“Beauty is very subjective and that is why it has been assumed that it is intractable by science, but some of its properties follow simple rules,” explains  Pelly, a professor in the Department of Psychology at New York University and author of the article. “Philosophers have always assumed that the sensation of beauty is a  special pleasure. However, our analysis shows that the sensation of beauty can simply be a  very intense pleasure, which otherwise would not be special,” concludes the researcher.

The term aesthetics was originally coined by the German philosopher Alexander Baumgarten, who defined it like that “belonging to or appreciation of beauty “. An idea that, according to the researchers, is related to ideas from cognitive psychology and neuroscience. According to neuroscientist  Anjan Chatterjee, “the term aesthetics is used to speak of perception, production, and responses to art as well as interactions with objects and scenes that evoke intense feelings.” A perspective that, this time, does give rise to empirical studies on beauty.

According to the researchers, the  study of aesthetics  from the scientific point of view came from the hand of  psychology . Some reflections that began with Plato, continued with Kant and came to the present day through the pen of authors like Oscar Wilde. And from there to science, one step. In this sense, as the authors of the recently published article explain  , the  empirical study of beauty  has been approached mainly from two perspectives: understanding what makes art beautiful (product-centered) and finding out what happens in our minds when we appreciate beauty (focused on the subject).

What do we consider beautiful?

Science began to study art to understand what it is that characterizes beauty. From this point of view, different studies on the subject have shown that there are certain qualities of objects that can contribute to their aesthetic value. This is the case, for example, of symmetry or of what entered the mean. This would be the reason why, according to some researchers, a person finds asymmetrical face more attractive and without any feature that is different from the average.

In the same way, according to some research on the subject, it is also highlighted that we are more likely to appreciate compositions in which curves dominate   above right angles or in which the golden ratio is respected  , a mathematical representation of certain proportions. reflected both in nature and in art.

But what are these preferences due to? According to some studies carried out from the perspective of  evolutionary psychology , the appreciation of beauty could be related to evolution as a human species. This could explain why the representation of a  curvilinear body  may seem more attractive, given the relationship of these attributes to fertility. In the same way, the fact that a lush landscape is preferred   to a desert one could be due to the choice of a more welcoming habitat for life.

What happens in our brain when we observe beauty?

One of the most interesting conclusions reached from this perspective is that an object is  more beautiful when simpler . Different studies on the process of receiving art concluded that objects were perceived more pleasantly when they were simpler to process. Studies of brain activity have shown that  beauty  is reflected in one of the brain’s pleasure centers  , located in the orbitofrontal cortex. A reaction that, unlike what some philosophers pointed out, occurs in a matter of thousandths of a second.

In this sense, the researchers point to a possible explanation for why beauty and art could be  addictive . The moment an aesthetic experience produces a positive reaction in our brain, it is logical that we look for more stimuli that produce a similar sensation. Hence the  search for beauty  in our daily lives. A process that, according to the authors of the article, conditions from how we dress to where we choose to go on vacation. Everything is for the pleasure that the beautiful gives us.

How do we perceive beauty?

Our cultural and educational level will determine our access to beauty, from physical or formal beauty to the most intangible or subtle beauty.
It depends on how we are, it depends on our education or our culture and our sensitivity; Our aesthetic taste is gradually being shaped in our life, with our readings, our conversations, our daily interests, etc.

The development of our human potential, and our inner development, will necessarily make us recognize beauty; first, a physical or formal beauty, which we can perceive with our five senses, and then, an intangible beauty, an essence, which is what the soul perceives.

We perceive the outer beauty with our physical eyes, with our senses, but we can also learn to look with the eyes of the soul, to also recognize the inner beauty, which is sometimes not so evident.

The inner beauty is found in the thoughts, feelings, and behavior of the human being. There is beauty in a heroic act, or in an act of generosity, there is beauty when one acts according to virtue. And this is also an art, the art of living, because it requires learning, practice, dedication …

The search for satisfaction is natural in the human being, but in the same way that there are pleasures for the senses, there are also pleasures for the soul. And what brings pleasure to the soul? Everything that reminds you of its celestial origin: the good, the fair and the beautiful, that go together.

And when beauty is perceived with the soul, in its essence, the human being can express it in different ways: in the physical and visible aspect, it is expressed as elegance. In conduct, it is expressed as a courtesy. In emotions and feelings, it is expressed as the kindness of the heart. And in ideas, it is expressed as wisdom.

What is beauty?

It is an Idea or Archetype that the artist seeks, awakens love, and makes our own inner beauty vibrate.
What everyone perceives is subjective beauty, we could say, but beauty is there, whether we perceive it or not. How to define or identify it?
Perhaps the most accepted point of view is that of Plato, 5th century BC. C.
considered the ceiling or the summit of western thought, which in several of its dialogues deals with the theme: Hippias Major, Phaedrus, and The Banquet.

According to Plato, beauty is an Idea, an Archetype, and in his work The Banquet, he links it to love. Love seeks beauty and leads to it. So it is no coincidence that many goddesses in mythology unite love and beauty, for example, Aphrodite in Greece, who is the goddess of love and beauty, or Venus in Rome.

That beauty, as an Idea or as an ideal, is a way of access to the wisdom available to the artist, who is the one who seeks beauty and strives to translate it into works of art, thus becoming an intermediary or bridge between the intelligible and the sensible world, or in other words, the heavenly and the terrestrial, the divine and the human.

That beauty as an Idea or archetype is a harmonic principle that is part of the creation of the universe. Here we already enter the field of metaphysics. And that beauty is eternal. It was not born nor will it die, and it is the cause that we see beauty reflected in physical bodies, in objects, and in all of Nature.

External Beauty

It is the one that makes people feel attracted or an interest just by seeing them. Some are born with these advantages but it is not the only valid one. Beauty is questionable, with this I say that it is not what the media always show us, as what is beautiful. You are beautiful for being what you are and not for trying to be the stereotype presented by the media.

The most used beauty stereotype is tall women with blue or green eyes, blonde hair, black, white skin, tan, or brunette color. Extremely thin. You can not question their beauty they are beautiful but that does not take away beauty from women with low curves or medium height, brown hair brown eyes

So the external beauty is important but not the only and important. It is good to feel good and take care of yourself. But if you don’t just have to focus on physical beauty, people are beautiful in many ways.

Inner Beauty

It is the beauty that in most of the times, is not quickly perceived by the fact that it cannot be seen. But when it is discovered it manages to charm. It may be that the person is not physically beautiful but if she has good feelings, she is bright and intelligent that makes her beautiful.

Sometimes one can fall in love with the appearance and that person does not manage to contribute much or share and another who does not have the same appearance if they can contribute. It is better to have someone next to you that contributes and does not live in a superficial world.


Beauty cannot be cataloged, a pretty person can be superficial, but can also be very intelligent, just as a not so beautiful person can be intelligent as well as can be superficial.

About Saad Mushtaq

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