The Aesthetic Brain Book Summary By Anjan Chatterjee

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The Aesthetic Brain (2014) is an enlightening and thought-provoking book that explores how our brains react to beauty and art.

Through scientific research and insight, readers will gain a better understanding of why we gravitate towards certain faces, why art moves us, and how humanity first began creating art.

This powerful book delves into the intricate details of this subject with sections on facial preferences, neuroscience of the creative brain, prehistoric painting, visual stories in film, synesthesia, and more.

Readers will have an enhanced knowledge of one of the oldest topics in history - the science behind aesthetics.

The Aesthetic Brain Book

Book Name: The Aesthetic Brain (How We Evolved to Desire Beauty and Enjoy Art)

Author(s): Anjan Chatterjee

Rating: 4.6/5

Reading Time: 20 Minutes

Categories: Psychology

Author Bio

Anjan Chatterjee is an eminent professor in the field of neurology and authority on the Aesthetic Brain.

He is the Chief of Neurology at Pennsylvania Hospital, a leading private, non-profit hospital associated with the University of Pennsylvania.

He was the 2002 recipient of the Norman Geschwind Prize in Behavioral and Cognitive Neurology and accordingly served as President of both the International Association of Empirical Aesthetics and Behavioral and Cognitive Neurology Society.

With such a high pedigree and extensive experience, you can be sure to trust his insights in The Aesthetic Brain Book Summary.

Learn How Neuroscience And Evolutionary Biology Help Us Uncover The Mystery Of Why We Crave Beauty


Have you ever wondered why your brain craves art and beauty? We all have a natural instinct to survive and procreate, but what is it that makes us strive for beauty as well? What is the purpose of it all?

Thanks to advances in neuroscience and evolutionary biology, we are starting to uncover the answer.

The Aesthetic Brain Book Summary dives into the fascinating story behind our fascination with beauty – one which we may never have expected.

Through this book’s exploration, you’ll soon discover why exactly our brains crave the aesthetics of art and, more importantly, its benefits.

You’ll learn about the nature of parasites, uncover how African savannahs touch us all on a deep level even when we’ve never been there before, and what it is like to be ‘disinterested’ in great works of art.

How Our Brains Unconsciously Make Judgments On Beauty And What Constitutes An Attractive Face

When it comes to beauty, there are certain universal principles that apply no matter who you’re looking at.

These include averageness, symmetry and sexual dimorphism.

Studies have shown that people tend to find faces with statistically average features more attractive than those with atypical features.

For example, medium-sized noses are usually considered more aesthetically pleasing than overly large or small ones.

Symmetry is also an important factor in what makes a face seem attractive.

Those with symmetrical facial features are thought to be healthier and have better immune systems; both of these characteristics contribute to making someone or something appear beautiful.

Finally, sexual dimorphism is a factor as well; typically masculine or feminine physical traits create aesthetic appeal in an individual’s face.

A classic example here is Brad Pitt’s chiseled chin, which is traditionally seen as a physical trait for men.

In summary, there are several universal principles that make up someone’s attractiveness according to the human brain: averageness, symmetry and sexual dimorphism all play a role in determining how beautiful someone appears to us on a subconscious level.

We Are Hardwired To Appreciate Beauty Because It Reflects Health And Fitness

Our ancestors had survival benefits to thank for our instinctual attraction to attractive people and places.

Symmetry, in particular, is a major indicator of beauty in faces – and also health and fitness.

Diseases transmitted by parasites often lead to asymmetry, weakened immune systems, and other physical abnormalities that could have been life-threatening before the development of modern medicine.

We’re also instinctively drawn to wide landscapes; this is because of the assistance that they provided when it came to surviving in ancient times.

They give us ample visibility so potential predators can be spotted quickly and far away.

Plus, having trees scattered sporadically offers a safe haven in case of immediate danger.

And not to mention how the African savanna provides a reliable source of food from peaceful mammals.

In conclusion, pursuing beauty in faces and places was a prerequisite for survival for our ancestors.

It comes as no surprise then that this has become an innate part of human psychology today

How Society’s Perception Of Beauty Changes Over Time


Our sense of beauty is largely shaped by neurobiology, but external circumstances and culture also play an important role.

Studies have found that the body types that are viewed as attractive can vary depending on the food supply of a community.

In places where food is scarce, men tend to favor larger women since their fat reserves will enable them to safely bear and nurture children.

Cultural influences have further exaggerated certain features that we find naturally attractive, distorting them for maximum visual appeal.

Take comic book characters for example; the astounding proportion of men with broad shoulders and square chins, or the huge eyes seen in anime which mimic those of babies.

Even our obsession with youthfulness is indicative of this tendency, as personal care industries cater specifically to preserving and enhancing this particular aesthetic.

In conclusion, not only does our brain’s structure determine what we find visually pleasing but external circumstances and cultural expectations also shape our view of beauty- by emphasizing traits that are already attractive to us.

What Makes An Object An Artwork? Exploring The Unpredictable Nature Of Art

Human beings around the world have been creating art for centuries, but it’s nearly impossible to define what qualifies as art.

Art can be beautiful and harmonious or tragic and delicate – its power is in its subjectivity.

A good example of this is Edvard Munch’s painting The Scream, which is rather fear-inducing.

British philosopher Edmund Burke noted that art isn’t just about beauty; it’s also about the sublime, which can be overwhelming and even painful.

Marcel Duchamp challenged conceptions of what could be considered art when he declared a porcelain urinal an artwork in 1917.

His work was so influential that 44 years later, artist Piero Manzoni presented his own feces as a work of art called Artist’s Shit!

And it sold at Sotheby’s for €124,000.

While we continue to grapple with how to truly define art, there is something we can all agree on: making art may be a universal human behavior, but figuring out what constitutes it has proven difficult – yet fascinating – throughout time.

How Art Activates Our Brains: How Visuals, Emotions, And Thinking All Work Together To Experience And Appreciate Art

Our brains are designed to process and interpret art in a variety of ways, thanks to the engagement of our sensual, emotional and cognitive networks.

Art activates our senses, causing us to pay closer attention to certain visual properties like the golden ratio which evoke an aesthetic pleasure within us.

At the same time, art can cause us to experience emotions as if they were really happening to us.

We might find ourselves feeling scared, disgusted or even happy when looking at works of art that depict such feelings.

Finally, we use our cognitive structures and problem-solving skills when we attempt to interpret or make sense of abstract artwork.

Overall, our experiences with art involve all parts of the brain – from the visual area that processes and perceives information, down to the emotion-processing region and up to our cognitive (reasoning) part – leading us to have fulfilling experiences that cannot be compared with analytical activities like crossword puzzles.

The Biggest Difference Between Art And Advertising: Pleasures Of The Mind Vs


The Aesthetic Brain book defines the aesthetic experience as one that is “disinterested interest.” In other words, we’re interested in art because we like it but don’t want any particular outcome from it.

Our imaginations and thoughts play freely without us needing to own or consume.

When it comes to art, there’s a distinction between two reward networks in the human brain that helps explain this phenomenon.

The first is responsible for liking something and the second is in charge of wanting something.

While they usually work together (you like ice cream so you want it), enjoying art triggers different reactions.

Neurotransmitters which would normally be involved when wanting something (dopamines) become uncoupled when simply liking something aesthetically (opioids and cannabinoids are more likely to come into play).

So if you’re looking for enjoyment through art, look no further than The Aesthetic Brain Book – its simple explanation of ‘liking without wanting’ will help bring out the best aesthetic experience possible!

What Is The Purpose Of Art? An In-Depth Analysis Of Three Theories

When it comes to why humans create art, two schools of thought have emerged: some believe that art is a natural instinct meant to enhance human survival, while others think that art is simply an accidental by-product of human evolution.

The first argument suggests that art can help people come together as a strong and cooperative group, increasing their chances for survival.

But this theory has flaws, as not all forms of art necessarily strengthen social bonds.

A painter or writer creating alone wouldn’t accomplish anything in terms of building community or collaboration.

On the other hand, some argue that art is just a coincidence due to our big brains being so powerful and agile they are capable of enjoying painting, writing and singing without any deeper purpose behind it.

This idea is also incomplete since practically every culture has embraced art in some way or another, proving that it’s too fundamental for there to be no purpose at all.

Ultimately, these theories seem incomplete or unsatisfactory on their own and don’t tell the full story…

but luckily there’s a third explanation out there in The Aesthetic Brain Book!

The Bengalese Finch Shows Us How Art Is Born Out Of Evolution And Freedom

As human evolution advanced, so did our capacity for imagination and abstract thinking- qualities that had been necessary for our basic survival and were now freed up to be used more creatively.

This enabled us to explore art in a way that was disconnected from the selective pressures of evolution, allowing us to express ourselves freely.

The same phenomenon also happened with the Bengalese finch- these birds were only able to sing elaborate songs because their survival was no longer under constant threat like other species.

As a result, they became adept at improvising and echoing their current environment through music.

These examples clearly show that the less we have to worry about simply staying alive, the more space we have to create art.

Wrap Up

The Aesthetic Brain provides an insightful look into how our brain has evolved to recognize and understand what we call beauty.

It reveals that our perception of beauty is the result of evolutionary benefits, which are expressed in everything from attractive faces to picturesque landscapes.

The book further explains that art is the product of multiple faculties working together, allowing for creative expression and producing artistic outcomes in a safe environment.

In short, The Aesthetic Brain provides an enlightening exploration into why we perceive certain things as beautiful and encourages us to explore this phenomenon further.

Arturo Miller

Hi, I am Arturo Miller, the Chief Editor of this blog. I'm a passionate reader, learner and blogger. Motivated by the desire to help others reach their fullest potential, I draw from my own experiences and insights to curate blogs.

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