Beauty is not a property of art, it is what you feel: this is how aesthetic sensitivity works

Beauty is not a property of art, it is what you feel: this is how aesthetic sensitivity works, If you walk through the corridors of a museum, you will find different styles of art, from baroque to postmodern. Some will stop excited when they see certain works of art, those that arouse something in their inner “I”. Those that cause certain sensory stimuli. Others will stop to see others that they like better. Others, will not even be attracted to any and will change rooms. Although aesthetic experiences are universal, some of us are more sensitive than others.

Some psychologists defend the idea that beauty It is not a property of a work, it is what you feel. An explanation of how people can be aesthetically sensitive and not know anything about art.

It’s not the work, it’s you . People argue about whether beauty is objective or subjective. In casual conversation, we make statements like, “This car is nice,” and we are prone to think that there is something inherent in the vehicle that makes it aesthetically pleasing. From there, a logical deduction is that aesthetic sensitivity describes the ability to detect and appreciate beauty where it exists. However, the beauty might not be in the car itself, but in the perceptual processes that end with a pleasant or unpleasant visual aesthetic experience. This phenomenon has been studied by several psychologists from the Camilo José Cela University in Madrid.

When we evaluate a work by art with someone and you disagree, it is tempting to think that it is because the other person is simply wrong and lacks the ability to see the true beauty in the work. Something that captures some implicit ideas about beauty that have existed for a long time in academic literature: the idea that it is objective, subject to standards, and detected through some kind of unitary trait or ability related to aesthetic sensitivity and valuation.

What we believed in the past . These ideas about objective and identifiable aesthetic quality have long been present in the art world and defended by influential psychologists of the early 20th century such as the American Norman Meier and the Englishman Cyril Burt. According to this vision, beauty is placed in the object and we humans discover it. If you cannot discover beauty, then you are not aesthetically sensitive: you lack the ability to achieve it. A sensitive person knows how to correctly judge a work of art.

The British psychologist Hans Eysenck conducted a test to measure this ability , in which participants had to decide which of two works of art was better designed. He collaborated with the artist Karl Otto Götz, who made several simple geometric paintings and then modified each one to make a deliberately “worse” version. They showed both to the volunteers, and those who correctly identified the “good” pieces were considered more aesthetically sensitive. Based on this approach, Eysenck defined aesthetic sensitivity as a biologically determined ability to appreciate objective beauty.

In the end, everything is based on stimuli . A research group from the Camilo José Cela University, led by Guido Corradi, has wanted to end this, challenging this conception of visual aesthetic sensitivity . And they thus propose that it is not about the precision of beauty judgments per se, but rather the degree to which some aesthetic characteristics do or do not cause a change in your taste for a visual stimulus. That is, if you are very sensitive from an aesthetic point of view, only subtle changes are required to affect your experience.

To get to such conclusions , they tested presenting various subjects with stimuli that varied in some visual characteristic (symmetry, balance, curvature and complexity) and asking them how much they liked what they saw on a scale from 1 to 7. While some people needed a big change in image to make a change in their evaluations, others only needed a subtle change to change their taste. Suggesting that aesthetic sensitivity is, in the end, the degree to which stimuli affect people’s tastes, not by whether they judge those stimuli correctly or not.

More aesthetically sensitive people . Based on these findings, the authors of the study, which you can consult here, propose a framework in which the aesthetic experience of people is relevant, not an objective conception of beauty. This means that there are differences in people’s aesthetic taste sensitivities , quite separate from any assumed external standard.

If some people are more sensitive to aesthetics than others, the door opens to the question of whether this sensitivity can be trained, learned or developed. And also why some people are attracted to some features and others are not. Our aesthetic experiences are based on our internal states, our motivations and the larger context at that moment and on our personal history.

But the aesthetic exists . Still, we know that the construction of the aesthetic experience is based on several basic elements found in all cultures, such as contour, balance, symmetry, and visual complexity, but the personal meaning of these simple visual characteristics is influenced by personal experience. So is there a universal beauty that we could all understand? Not even scientists have come up with the answer. Although many questions remain unresolved, one thing is clear: to know how human visual aesthetics works, we must leave behind the old ideas that beauty is inherent in objects and embrace the idea that many times, that beauty is within ourselves.

Image: Unsplash

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