Symmetry is Not a Universal Law of Beauty

Author(s)
Helmut Leder, Pablo Tinio, David Brieber, Tonio Kröner, Thomas Jacobsen, Raphael Rosenberg
Abstract

Scientific disciplines as diverse as biology, physics, and psychological aesthetics regard symmetry as one of the most important principles in nature and one of the most powerful determinants of beauty. However, symmetry has a low standing in the arts and humanities. This difference in the valuation of symmetry is a remarkable illustration of the gap between the two cultures. To close this gap, we conducted an interdisciplinary, empirical study to directly demonstrate the effects of art expertise on symmetry appreciation. Two groups of art experts—artists and art historians—and a group of non-experts provided spontaneous beauty ratings of visual stimuli that varied in symmetry and complexity. In complete contrast to responses typically found in non-art experts, art experts found asymmetrical and simple stimuli as most beautiful. This is evidence of the effects of specific education and training on aesthetic appreciation and a direct challenge to the universality of symmetry.

Organisation(s)
Department of Basic Psychological Research and Research Methods, Vienna Cognitive Science Hub, Department of Art History
Journal
Empirical Studies of the Arts
Volume
37
Pages
104-114
ISSN
0276-2374
DOI
https://doi.org/10.1177/0276237418777941
Publication date
2017
Publication status
Accepted/In press
Peer reviewed
Yes
Austrian Fields of Science 2012
501001 General psychology, 501011 Cognitive psychology, 604019 Art history
Keywords
expertise, aesthetics, symmetry, preference
Portal url
https://ucris.univie.ac.at/portal/en/publications/symmetry-is-not-a-universal-law-of-beauty(efb4f695-ec84-46a6-a683-13d0392973be).html