The Aesthetic Brain Book Summary - The Aesthetic Brain Book explained in key points
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The Aesthetic Brain summary

Anjan Chatterjee

How We Evolved to Desire Beauty and Enjoy Art

4.5 (57 ratings)
20 mins

Brief summary

The Aesthetic Brain by Anjan Chatterjee explores the relationship between the brain and art, proposing that aesthetics is intricately tied to our evolution and biology. It merges science with philosophy, making it an engaging read for lovers of both.

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    The Aesthetic Brain
    Summary of 8 key ideas

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    Key idea 1 of 8

    There are universal principles that make a face appear beautiful.

    What do Winona Ryder’s face and the African savannah have in common? They’re both beautiful! But what is it exactly that makes them so?

    Well, the human brain is wired to respond automatically to beautiful faces and bodies, sometimes without us even being aware of it. In fact, studies have found that it’s nearly impossible to look at a face without considering its attractiveness.

    In one experiment, people compared two computer-generated faces. They were asked to judge how similar they were to one another. Even though participants were not asked to judge the beauty of either face, their visual cortices showed increased activity when presented with an attractive person; in other words, their brains were unconsciously and automatically reacting to pretty faces.

    This instant appraisal also leads us to have higher opinions of good-looking people, including those we hardly know. Studies have even shown that attractive people receive higher grades, land better jobs and have better salaries.

    But the question still remains as to why exactly we find certain people beautiful. To answer this fundamental question, scientists have devised three basic parameters that constitute an attractive face: averageness, symmetry and sexual dimorphism, that is, physical features that distinguish one gender from another.

    The first characteristic refers to the tendency for humans to find statistically average facial features more appealing than atypical ones. This means that we usually prefer medium-sized noses to big or very small ones, and eyes that are neither too close together nor too far apart.

    The second aspect, symmetry, has been found to be essential to our appraisal of beauty, since facial symmetry is considered an indicator of good health and a robust immune system. As we’ll see in the next blink, both of these features are also aesthetically appealing.

    Finally, the importance of sexual dimorphism means that people who have typically male or female features are considered more attractive. For example, a large chin is often considered a typically manly feature; just think of Brad Pitt’s chiseled chin and try to say he’s not an attractive man!

    It’s thus clear that our brains seek out and admire beauty – but what exactly is beauty, and how can it be defined? Let’s take a closer look in the next blink.

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    What is The Aesthetic Brain about?

    The Aesthetic Brain (2014) explains how and why the human brain responds to beauty and art. These blinks break down the reasons why we instinctively prefer some faces to others, what art does to our brains and how we started making art in the first place.

    The Aesthetic Brain Review

    The Aesthetic Brain (2013) by Anjan Chatterjee explores the relationship between art, beauty, and the brain. Here's why this book is worth reading:

    • It provides a fascinating exploration of how our brain processes, perceives, and finds aesthetic experiences, shedding light on the mystery of human appreciation for art and beauty.
    • Backed by scientific research, the book presents an array of intriguing case studies and experiments, deepening our understanding of the neural mechanisms that underpin our aesthetic judgments.
    • The book offers a thought-provoking perspective on how the study of aesthetics can enhance our understanding of human cognition and the nature of subjective experience, making it a captivating read.

    Best quote from The Aesthetic Brain

    Fat countries like thin women.

    —Anjan Chatterjee
    example alt text

    Who should read The Aesthetic Brain?

    • Artists and art lovers
    • Students of psychology and anthropology
    • Curious readers interested in how beauty takes shape in the eye of the beholder

    About the Author

    Anjan Chatterjee is a professor and Chief of Neurology at the Pennsylvania Hospital, a private, non-profit hospital affiliated with the University of Pennsylvania. Chatterjee is the former president of the International Association of Empirical Aesthetics as well as the Behavioral and Cognitive Neurology Society, and was the 2002 recipient of the Norman Geschwind Prize in Behavioral and Cognitive Neurology.

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    The Aesthetic Brain FAQs 

    What is the main message of The Aesthetic Brain?

    The main message of The Aesthetic Brain is to understand and appreciate the science behind our aesthetic experiences.

    How long does it take to read The Aesthetic Brain?

    The reading time for The Aesthetic Brain may vary, but it usually takes a few hours. However, the Blinkist summary can be read in just 15 minutes.

    Is The Aesthetic Brain a good book? Is it worth reading?

    The Aesthetic Brain is a thought-provoking read, offering insights into the beauty of the mind. It's definitely worth exploring.

    Who is the author of The Aesthetic Brain?

    The author of The Aesthetic Brain is Anjan Chatterjee.

    What to read after The Aesthetic Brain?

    If you're wondering what to read next after The Aesthetic Brain, here are some recommendations we suggest:
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    • A Thousand Brains by Jeff Hawkins
    • The Mind of the Artist by William Todd Schultz
    • The Brain that Changes Itself by Norman Doidge
    • How to Talk to Anyone by Leil Lowndes
    • The Brain by David Eagleman
    • The Brain’s Way of Healing by Norman Doidge
    • On the Origin of Time by Thomas Hertog
    • Mindset by Carol Dweck