Psychologists tested the claims of Kant on beauty and pleasure

Psychologists from the University of new York confirmed the statement of the philosopher Immanuel Kant that beauty requires work, and refuted the idea that sensual pleasure is ugly.

Immanuel Kant is considered an authority in the field of the philosophy of beauty. In the treatise “observations on the feeling of the beautiful and the sublime”, he argued: the perception of beauty requires a mind, and sensual pleasures like sex or food, beautiful can not be so mental stress for them is not required. These philosophical ideas are difficult to test experimentally, as the notion of beauty is subjective, but American psychologists have tried.

They conducted a series of experiments with 62 participants who had to pass tests. During the tests the participants performed three types of activities: sucking lollipops, stroking Teddy bears and look at pictures. The pictures were of several categories: those which the members previously chose as beautiful; those that the researchers took special database and is considered pretty conventional; and conventionally neutral pictures, for example the furniture from the IKEA catalog. Then participants rated their experience of each object on a scale of beauty, who had four points and on a scale of pleasure, buildup and decay which scientists then calculated by building a mathematical model.

In the end, 92% of participants identified personally selected the picture of a beautiful, 56% said beautiful pictures, which picked it up for them, the psychologists, and only 3% found it beautiful and neutral pictures. With more than a third of participants called beautiful and not visual stimuli — sucking candy and the feeling of stroking a Teddy bear.

In the second phase of the experiment participants were asked to repeat what they did before, including the viewing of the same pictures, but with only one difference: their attention is specifically distracted simple task. Parties during procedures, view, sucking and stroking had to listen to a number of texts that they read, and to press the button when the same fragment is repeated. So the researchers hoped to load the temporary memory of the participants and create additional cognitive load. After this, participants again filled out the “scale of beauty”.

The researchers found that the experience of contemplating the ugly object was not changed when the participants were distracted. But when it came to beautiful objects, distracting tasks “lowered” the perception of beauty and people put lower ball picture, which was considered very beautiful in the first part of the experiment. So, the percentage that rated beautiful pictures of the highest score dropped from 92 to 40.

This, the psychologists concluded, in part, Kant was right: the perception of beauty requires mental effort.

However, contrary to the assertion of Kant that sensual pleasure can never be beautiful, about 30% of participants said they definitely felt beautiful after eating a delicious candy or a touch of a Teddy bear. As the scientists write, “many people noticed that the taste of the candy to them has a very personal experience, it’s kind of a memory from childhood”.

Constructing a mathematical model, psychologists have found that a sense of beauty increases linearly with increasing pleasure, and intense pleasure for people is subjective always beautiful, regardless of whether it was obtained from something really beautiful or sensually pleasing. This statement works in the opposite direction: intense pleasure you can get from viewing a beautiful picture, and not just from the “sex, drugs and chocolate,” write the authors of the study.

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