Brain Correlates Of Aesthetic Judgment Of Beauty

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In this journal by Jacobsen, Shubotz, Hofel, and Yves the concept of beauty and finding the neurological pathway the brain processes in order to detect beauty. The authors conducted an experiment in order to determine if the brain can separate the idea of beauty and images that society categorizes as beautiful, from the memories and emotions attached to them to form a logical process in which the brain categorizes beautiful images in our minds for later recognition. This experiment was introduced as a way to see if beauty can be “separated by desire” (Jacobsen, 2003) and plainly evaluated.

In the study, the experimenters used a process that has been studied before, where as the brain correlates beauty with symmetry. Because of those findings, Jacobsen, Shubotz, Hofel, and Yves where able to conduct their own experiment in which they use black and white geometric shapes that are both symmetrical and unsymmetrical. These images where the accompanied with questions “ is this pattern symmetrical; or is this pattern beautiful” (Jacobsen, 2004). These questions where correlated by pre-existing experiments and used as to determine whether once the brain activates symmetrical images does it then recognize those images as more beautiful than those that are unsymmetrical. Each image is then separated by an image with a neutral geometric shape that allowed the brain to continuously be in an activated state. The participants where to then press a button to select yes or no to the question being asked.

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The method to deciding participants was selecting individuals who had no professional training with art or had not taken part of an experiment like this before. They had normal to corrected normal vision so that the images where not altered in the participants brain. They where then given an Aesthetic Threshold Test to determine their capability to continue to the fMRI test. Participants are then placed into an fMRI machine and then the presentation of images begins. The order goes, a small cross that is centered directly in the middle of the frame is used as a way for the participant’s eyes to focus for the next image. Then “ to enhance the temporal resolution of the blood oxygenation variable, a jitter time of 2.5-4 sec, 1 sec, and 2.5 sec where used” (Hofel and Jacobsen 2003) in between images shown. Patterns that where to be judges as beautiful or (aesthetic judgment) or symmetric (symmetry judgment) by the participants where alternated in random order with the previous cross images as a way to center the brain’s focus again. At times random images that the participant where to recognize as symmetrical was also a shape that the participant would regularly see, like an arrow. This ensured that the participant was focused during the study, as they would be viewing up to 220 patterns during the experiment.

The imaging technique that was used was the Functional MRI. It was used to determine the neural pattern on aesthetic judgment of the beauty in geometric shapes; due to them not having emotional or memorable ties in the human cognition. This technique was used as a way to take graphic images of the brain whilst conducting the experiment. These images where measured in correlation with the responses the participants gave during the trials compared with specific aspects of the geometric shapes that where shown in the patters; such as number of elements, horizontal or vertical bars, oblique bars and other shapes in which they used in this experiment. Each category was given patterns to match it, and based on the responses that the participants gave, each pattern had a score that was averaged and produced results t which the experimenters used with the images that where produced by the fMRI machine. The patterns where then analyzed as “triggers” for the specific parts of the brain, which allowed the experimenters to see what patterns where processed by which part of the brain.

The results confirmed that the brain does have a logical way of processing patterns and correlating them to beauty. It was also found that the different patterns also generated different results as well, “In general, the participants showed agreement that symmetric and regular pictures were more beautiful that the others” (Jacobsen 2005) and that the more complex patterns weren’t favored as much as simple ones. The results also revealed “both types of judgment relied on a set of areas supporting high-level visual analysis” (Jacobsen 2005). Also that the parts of the brain that is mostly activated during judging whether a pattern was beautiful or not was in the intraparietal sulcus and those that focused on judging symmetry was the right front median cortex and the right and left inferior frontal gyrus.

Critique: After reading through the journal and analyzing the process in which the experimenters selected for their participants and the imaging technique used for the experiment I believe that the imaging technique the experimenters used was useful for this particular experiment. It was able to create and calculate an average of the brain’s normal processing for the task and add that to the specific functions the participants where doing at hand without using radioactive substances. What’s great about the fMRI is that it creates a great temporal and spatial resolution thus giving a great detail of what the brain looks like during resting and during the trials. The only other type of imaging testing one could use would be ERP’s they wouldn’t have to have the participants absolutely still and the stimulus (geometric patterns) can still be used see which parts of the brain light up whilst looking at them; but the fMRI is the best due to its more detailed projections.

I found that the study was carried out in a very detailed fashion. From picking the participants, even though there was only a small sample, they went through a detailed selection process to choose the best candidates. Another positive aspect of the experiment was even though they had very little participants, they had a lot of trials. Those trials provided a lot of data for the experimenters to create a concise portfolio on the reactions to the different patterns. These results where also supported form previous experiments on symmetry and beauty so that is helpful for validity. One thing I would change would be possible adding color to the images, this way we can even add how color can affect the minds way of processing and how the occipital lobe plays in the act of processing and analyzing images. Color is one of the most important features in the human brain due to the complexity of the eye and how humans interpret color in beauty.

The most important parts of this experiment was the multiple parts of the brain that is activated in the process, using the fMRI imaging technique was useful to detect the before and after process in where the brain takes the information being presented and how its guided for how we react to that pattern. This experiment was carried in a way that they where able to prove that the brain activates during a particular mode of aesthetic judgment. The results showed that the brain takes more time to determine whether something is aesthetically pleasing or symmetrical and those findings allowed a separation between the two.


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