In the brain of the beholder?
A study in which art criticism-challenged subjects (most of us) were asked to view sculptures in which the classic Golden Ratio parameters were tweaked suggests that our perception of visual beauty is partly instinctive and partly learned. Test subjects showed more activity in the brain’s limbic insular cortex, part of our emotion mediation system, when viewing sculpture that has been deemed classically beautiful over the ages.
As summed up nicely in Wired – “Thankfully, the researchers did not reach too far in their conclusions. The results, they said, merely suggest that beauty is mediated by separate but overlapping processes. One is learned, the other instinctive — and therein lies the power of art to speak across ages, long after its makers and their world have disappeared.”
Perhaps, as people, we share more in common across cultures than we sometimes admit.