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The Biological Basis of Mathematical Beauty

Zeki, S; Chén, OY; Romaya, JP; (2018) The Biological Basis of Mathematical Beauty. Frontiers in Human Neuroscience , 12 , Article 467. 10.3389/fnhum.2018.00467. Green open access

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Abstract

Our past studies have led us to divide sensory experiences, including aesthetic ones derived from sensory sources, into two broad categories: biological and artifactual. The aesthetic experience of biological beauty is dictated by inherited brain concepts, which are resistant to change even in spite of extensive experience. The experience of artifactual beauty on the other hand is determined by post-natally acquired concepts, which are modifiable throughout life by exposure to different experiences (Zeki, 2009; Zeki and Chén, 2016). Hence, in terms of aesthetic rating, biological beauty (in which we include the experience of beautiful faces or human bodies) is characterized by less variability between individuals belonging to different ethnic origins and cultural backgrounds or the same individual at different times. Artifactual beauty (in which we include the aesthetic experience of human artifacts, such as buildings and cars) is characterized by greater variability between individuals belonging to different ethnic and cultural groupings and by the same individual at different times. In this paper, we present results to show that the experience of mathematical beauty (Zeki et al., 2014), even though it constitutes an extreme example of beauty that is dependent upon (mathematical) culture and learning, is consistent with one of the characteristics of the biological categories, namely a lesser variability in terms of the aesthetic ratings given to mathematical formulae experienced as beautiful.

Type: Article
Title: The Biological Basis of Mathematical Beauty
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
DOI: 10.3389/fnhum.2018.00467
Publisher version: http://dx.doi.org/10.3389/fnhum.2018.00467
Language: English
Additional information: © 2018 Zeki, Chén and Romaya. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/).
Keywords: mathematical beauty, biological beauty, artifactual beauty, deductive logic, neuroesthetics
UCL classification: UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Life Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Life Sciences > Div of Biosciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Life Sciences > Div of Biosciences > Cell and Developmental Biology
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10066356
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