Mind beautiful faces

Published on December 27th, 2013 | by No Artificial

How Do We Perceive Beauty ?

How do we perceive beauty and why we find some faces more attractive than others?

Esthetic preference is one of hundreds, perhaps thousands, of ways in which humans vary from one another.

But, how do we perceive beauty and why we find some people more attractive than others.

These are some questions posed by University of Pennsylvania professor of neurology Anjan Chatterjee in his new book called “The Aesthetic Brain: How We Evolved to Desire Beauty and Enjoy Art”.

A few years ago, Chatterjee and his colleagues conducted an experiment by looking at people’s responses to a different kind of faces. They have noticed that in the visual cortex of the brain, the areas that are specialized to respond to faces in general tended to have more activity as the face became more beautiful.

They observed that there are three parameters that seem to contribute to which faces people think are beautiful.

Facial symmetry is one. More symmetrical faces are perceived as more attractive in both males and females. Although, completely symmetric faces are disconcerting and are perceived as artificial.

A second parameter is the averageness. The averaged faced typically looks more attractive than the individual face.

Both, facial symmetry and averageness apply to men and women.

The last are the features that make men’s and women’s faces differ from one another, which have been refer to a sexual dimorphism – the effects of testosterone on men’s faces and of estrogen on women’s faces. The structure of the cheek bones, the relative size of the lower half of the face and the width of the jaw influence people’s judgments of facial beauty.

Heterosexual women tend to be physically or sexually attracted to men with a square jaw and heavy brow. Heterosexual man tend to be attracted to women with large eyes, full lips, small chins and high cheekbones. These are the features that are typically associated with a more youthful appearance.

Furthermore, Chatterjee claims that we find things beautiful because they activate the reward system in the brain. This, he says, evolved to motivate us to pursue basic needs – which is where sex, food and money come in – but is also turned on by some higher-minded things such as mathematical patterns and learning. When we see something that appeals to these basic drives, we feel pleasure. Sometimes art does the appealing. We also experience pleasure through figuring something out – a piece of conceptual art, for instance.



“The Aesthetic Brain: How We Evolved to Desire Beauty and Enjoy Art” – Anjan Chatterjee
New Scientist
The Economist

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