Monday, 24 February 2014

The Beauty & The Mind


"Mathematical Beauty Activates Same Brain Region as Great Art or Music" was stated on an article I was reading the other day.

Immediately, I started to wonder about the notion of beauty and how this is perceived in our brain...

The Neuroscience article says that people who appreciate beauty on mathematical formulas activate the same region of the brain as others do when appreciating art or music, suggesting that there is a neurobiological basis to beauty.
By then the article had caught my attention. I have always questioned the definition of beauty and the sense of liking specific things. And that may be the reason why I always questioned certain beauty ‘standards’... nevertheless I am able to appreciate mathematics! :-)

As discussed in a previous post, the proportion of traits, what we now refer to as the frequency of genes is transmitted between generations so specific traits are transmitted and this will include behavioural traits. Thus, we may conclude that the enjoyment for something can be passed on through generations. However it is also true that memory plays a big role in this, an infant that had parents always listening to classical music is more likely to enjoy and like that music genre. Hence the line between genetics and initial memory can be tricky to measure.

Correlated with memory is the experience and within experience we should include societal timeline of beauty, in order words, the correlation between beauty and time. For instance, physical beauty of the human body is a lot of times linked with socio-political aspirations. In some rural areas of Africa and Latin America, the female concept of beauty would be characterized by a more voluptuous body since these women would have more chances to survive and give birth to various children. I know this because my girlfriend to be at the time was offered 100 cows just because “she was not only yellow but she was not thin and would make a good wife” (she looks like an average Latina, this was in Uganda). The same concept is true every time there was a war.
On the other hand, in some other societies, a pale skin and slimmer body means the individual does not perform hard labour neither have to work under the sun all day, i.e. s/he may be a well off person, thus is more able to subsist and provide for future generations.
With both of these examples we can associate the likeness to our animal gene of survival and reproduction. However, this is also correlated with the role of an individual in society; the aspiration that one may have in a society; and what society, in general, says (and sells) about beauty and or status. Power is attractive since this means strength and with strength comes survival.
Beauty is also strongly linked with definition of fashion and what it tells you to aspire for (e.g. status). But, let us not forget that fashion is made by man and it is built over trends and trends change over time. Beauty and the notion of appeal IS a subjective feeling which is influenced by many variables. But it is also true that our appreciation for things varies from one person to another because our goals or ways to get to our goals are also different.

As you explore more, many studies say that appreciation can be linked to genes, memory and/or experience. After a certain action/happening there will be a feeling and something within your brain will tell you if it is something that you want to repeat or avoid, and this will include similarities. In other words, if someone REALLY likes to eat strawberries s/he will eventually try a strawberry cheese cake and potentially will like songs that talk about strawberries - there will be a correlation between visual, auditory and sensory feelings.
Beauty is also a feeling of comfort, the human being is an animal of habits and will often see beauty in something that s/he is more used to or which s/he may correlate more or aspire to, creating the habit of  positive feelings in the brain. When an abrupt change completely different from the habit occurs, this will normally lead to initial unbalanced feelings and questions of the brain, "Will this be something worth repeating?"

But why do the feelings change? Well that is a good question and the answers can be many: the brain may discover other stronger positive feelings which will become more relevant; the body and hormones change as you grow older which will affect the perception of feelings; the influence and the message of society changes which will affect your role and your aspirations...
Do not get me wrong, it is important to change your mind in general; the key is to keep your identity separate from your own opinions. If you want to learn to be open you need to always be prepared to change your mind. That being said I still believe it is important to have certain logic behind decisions and feelings...

I can honestly say that I disliked the first time I had to learn programming, today I see programming expressions as something beautiful… but can someone please explain me how to appreciate modern art?...

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Blog Editor and Owner: Luis Aparicio Fernandes (or Mikey) is a Business Expert and a Traveler based in Sydney, Australia. He is a member of The International Honor Society Beta Gamma Sigma due to his achievements in business. You can follow Luis on Google+, and LinkedIn.