The Biological Response to Beauty and Ugliness in Art [Excerpt]

Scientific American:

Our attraction to faces, and particularly to eyes, appears to be innately determined. Infants as well as adults prefer to look at eyes rather than other features of a person’s face, and both infants and adults are sensitive to gaze. The direction of a person’s gaze is very important in our processing of the emotions displayed by that person’s face, because the brain combines information from gaze with information from facial expressions.

Reginald Adams from Pennsylvania State University and Robert Kleck from Dartmouth College have found that a direct gaze and an expression of happy emotion facilitate the communication and processing of joy, friendliness, and approach-oriented emotions presumably because, as Uta Frith has found, only direct gaze recruits the dopaminergic reward system. In contrast, an averted, sad, or fearful gaze communicates the avoidance-oriented emotions of fear and sadness. Although gaze and facial expression are processed together, other aspects of beauty, such as gender and age, are processed independently.

Read the whole story: Scientific American

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