Title

Symmetry is Not a Universal Law of Beauty

Document Type

Article

Publication Date

1-1-2019

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.

DOI

10.1177/0276237418777941

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