Why Do We Enjoy Beautiful Things?

A lot of things can be beautiful. Landscapes, faces, fine art, or epic architecture; stars in the sky. Or simply the reflection of the sun on an empty bottle. Beauty is nothing tangible, it only exists in our heads as a pleasing feeling.

If we’ve to define it, we perceive something as beautiful if its color, shape, form, or proportion somehow are appealing or delightful to us.

Beauty may be a very human experience that’s been with us for many years. Even our first tools were trimmed to asymmetrical shapes. Researchers have tried to seek out practical reasons why our ancestors invested the time to form their tools to look nice, but couldn’t really identify any.

It seems that early humans shaped their tools into teardrops, just because they liked them better that way. Throughout our history, the definition of beauty has changed tons. Ideals have shifted or became their opposites. But beyond individual and contemporary tastes some things haven’t really gone out of fashion.

The golden ratio, symmetry, or fractal patterns are often found within the art and architecture of cultures from our beginnings, to today. Humans seem to be in mysterious, inherent agreement about the sweetness of certain things.

The patterns that keep arising are all rooted in nature. They became part of our biology because they helped our ancestors survive. Fractal patterns, for instance, occur everywhere in nature. In snail shells, flower heads; waves, or clouds Identifying and assessing these things and phenomena correctly used to be vital.

Do those clouds mean rain will come soon? Are these waters safe to swim through? Can I eat this? Another pervasive thing is symmetry. In nature, it means everything is because it should be Stems and trees and leaves and blossoms all grow symmetrically A deer with impressive antlers is perhaps a source of nutritious meat.

A deformed wheat hair might not be safe to eat. An asymmetrical face is more likely to belong to a healthy and fertile mating partner. Because symmetry is so common in fauna and flora, it’s extremely familiar to our brain.

It helped our ancestors evaluate their environment more easily, and react quickly to danger. Things that helped us survive activate the reward center in our brain.

Recognizing signals of safety and nutrition triggered nice feelings in us. So our sense of beauty probably evolved from pattern recognition, but it goes way beyond that now.

Experiments show truth

Humans seem to possess evolved an instinct for beauty that’s deeply hardwired into us. It remains even after other processes in our brain stop working.

Alzheimer’s patients were asked to rank the beauty of several paintings then the experiment was repeated two weeks later The patients have long since forgotten the paintings, but still ranked the beauty of the paintings in the same order.

One could argue that this does not say much. So what if people stick to their personal preferences? But other research has shown that we have a kind of lowest common denominator when it involves beauty.

In different experiments, people were asked to differentiate real from fake abstract paintings. Some were originals by Mondrian and Pollock that were painted supported strict rules like fractal patterns, while the imitations weren’t.

The majority picked out the original artworks. This worked for paintings from both artists, albeit their arts are very different.

Another experiment also used abstract artworks but, asked people to select them out among similar paintings made either by children or animals. Again, the test subjects pointed out the legit paintings whose patterns were carefully planned and not random So while we have a hard time pinning down what beauty is or what it’s based on, we somehow recognize it when we see it Humans don’t navigate nature trying to survive day by day anymore We left the natural world behind and created our own.

We made the objects that surround us the items we wear and use and appearance. As we cover the earth and our numbers grew, we shaped a totally man-made environment.

In the process of doing so, we frequently neglected beauty in favor of functionality cost, or efficiency. We built rows and rows of concrete housing blocks that no one wants to measure in.

We have ugly underground subway stations, shabby public service buildings, and sprawling malls. One bland, standardized box beside the next. Humans, don’t like monotony. Eye-tracking software has shown that folks keep that specialize in details and ornaments of architecture while brushing quickly over blank walls And not only are they no fun to look at, they actually make us miserable.

Experiments with skin sensors showed that watching vast, dull facades makes us feel bored and uncomfortable. This kind of boredom has been linked to raised heart rates and stress levels and the opposite seems to be true, too.


Over the last decades, more and more studies have found that surroundings that are actually aesthetically pleasing to us can improve our well-being, our behavior, cognitive function, and mood. Our bodies and brains react measurably and visibly to everything that surrounds us Beauty especially has such a robust impact on our well-being that creating useful things beautiful can actually make them better.

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