Beauty – A Phenomenon That Defines Our Behavior
Beauty is defined by Oxford Dictionary as “a mental quality or attitude that gives the feeling of beauty, pleasure, or satisfaction.” According to Webster it can be described as “appealing to the eye.” It is an attitude you may feel toward something whether it is good or bad. It is a quality we tend to adopt unconsciously. It is a natural state that we all have but choose not to share with others.
Beauty is also commonly defined as a physical trait that makes objects pleasant to see. These objects could be sunsets, landscapes, humans and artistic works of art. It is a mental attitude we have towards beauty that affects how we physically feel about them. Our brain regions have a special structure that allows us to make complex aesthetic judgments about the visual world. These judgments are activated in the areas of the brain called the reward pathway.
The function of the reward pathway is to motivate us to pursue our natural selection instincts. The aesthetic values that result from the presence of certain natural features like natural landscapes, are considered to be highly desirable. We want to be near such features if possible because they are visually pleasing. This desire is activated by the natural selection gene (ourself) and is also related to the natural beauty genes (our ancestral species). These aesthetic values, if desired, would be the result of the concentrated will of our highly focused (and hard wired) brain regions.
It turns out that there is a lot more to attractiveness than the recognition of facial features. The whole beauty concept is an emergent phenomena in the human brain. It has its basis in the part of the brain that allows us to make complex causal attributions and uses language to communicate these attributions. It then uses the information it acquires from the rest of our cognitive system to determine what meets our needs to the highest degree of attractiveness. In this way, beauty reflects a psychological property of our brains that are not consciously conscious and that underlies many of our behavioral patterns.
One of the most widely reported correlates of beauty is the presence of a particular brain region or “basket” of cells that are activated during the presentation of faces and other physical stimuli. The nucleus accumbens is one of these areas and is thought to govern the subjective beauty of faces. People with a high number of neurons in the nucleus accumbens show greater aesthetic appreciation of facial images. The link between aesthetic appreciation and the presence of a specific brain area is made when the two regions of the brain that are activated during aesthetic processing also project different responses to visual stimuli. In fact, when the images of faces and other objects are shown to individuals, the activation of this particular region of the brain has been associated with an emotional response. The nucleus accumbens has been identified as part of the emotional circuitry of humans.
Beauty is not judged by the standards of the culture in which a person lives but is instead evaluated on the basis of genetic programming and behavioral dispositions that are innate and therefore independent of cultural influence. Our moral judgments of beauty are motivated by genetic predispositions and our behavioral responses to facial stimuli reflect our evolutionary history. Beauty is therefore neither a given nor an abstract quality but is rooted in innate human faculties such as the need to reproduce and the desire for interpersonal relationships.