An Attempt to Explain Visual Aesthetic Appreciation

Grinde, Bjørn and Husselman, Tammy-Ann orcid iconORCID: 0000-0002-3206-5496 (2022) An Attempt to Explain Visual Aesthetic Appreciation. Integrative psychological & behavioral science . ISSN 1932-4502

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We suggest an evolutionary based explanation for why humans are preoccupied with aesthetic aspects of visual input. Briefly, humans evolved to be swayed by positive and negative feelings in the form of rewards and punishments, and to pursue situations that induce rewards, even when the feeling is not sufficiently strong to be recognized as a reward. The brain is designed to offer rewards when a person focuses on certain types of visual stimuli. For example, warm colors are typically pleasant because they are associated with edible fruits, and complex images appeal to curiosity. At some point people began exploiting these types of brain rewards by beautifying objects and creating art. The utility of objects, and the associative (or communicative) aspects of art, may dominate the design, but the artist tends to add aesthetic elements. These elements imply visual aspects that do not add to the functional value or evoke memories or associations based on easily recognized features in the picture. The adaptive rationale for the rewards offered by the aesthetic elements should help explain human aesthetic appreciation.

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