Health and Medicine Question #4795

Anonymous, a 16 year old male from Vancouver, BC asks on October 18, 2009,

Why is the golden ratio considered aesthetically pleasing? In other words, what are the neurological processes involved in the perception of mathematical beauty?

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The answer

Dahlia Zaidel, psychologist at UCLA answered on October 19, 2009

The neurological correlates for beauty -- whether of faces, art, nature scenery, mathematical formulas, physics, etc. -- are not known. The multiple beauty-related responses by the human brain are hard to separate empirically. It's unlikely that all these beauty-related responses would share the same neural pathways. Besides, to take one example, not all researchers agree that the golden ratio explains facial beauty. For one thing, the ratio is not universal. It does not apply to all ethnic faces throughout the world. For another, many good lookers do not have facial features that fit within the golden ratio. Together this means that facial beauty is still an enigma. For more, check out Zaidel's book (2005) Neuropsychology of Art: Neurological, Cognitive, and Evolutionary Perspectives (Brain Damage, Behaviour, and Cognition) or this paper by E. Holland, Marquardt’s Phi Mask: Pitfalls of Relying on Fashion Models and the Golden Ratio to Describe a Beautiful Face.

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