Why do you like what you like

I've been rolling around this notion in my mind, that beauty is connected to the familiar in your brain. There is a complex set of connections formed early and build through a lifetime. I hypothesize that you can trigger neurons in a sequence that feel familiar and are also unconsciously comforting.....and thus pleasing. Maybe the connection in the brain is about 'fluency'. This makes total sense to me.

Article written in 2004 by Rolf Reber, Norbert Schwartz, and Piotr Winkielman entitled Processing Fluency and Aesthetic Pleasure: Is Beauty in the Perceiver’s Processing Experience? -- they write that aesthetic pleasure is a function of the viewers brain processing.... "the more fluently perceivers can process an object, the more positive their aesthetic response."

Steve Genco (love him) boils this down in a post and writes....

"The idea of processing fluency is deceptively simple. Things that are easier to process cognitively are perceived as more aesthetically pleasing than things that are harder to process.

Unexpected fluency tends to produce more subjective experience than expected fluency:

  • Identical patterns are rated more favorably when presented with vertical rather than horizontal symmetry (Palmer, 1991)
  • High contrast enhances liking for patterns shown briefly, but not for identical patterns shown longer (R. Reber & Schwarz, 2001)
  • Objectively identical stimuli are evaluated more favorably when their processing is facilitated through priming procedures (R. Reber et al., 1998; Winkielman & Fazendeiro, 2003)
  • Repeated exposure to a stimulus results in more favorable evaluations, a phenomenon known as the mere exposure effect (Zajonc, 1968, 1998)
  • Prototypical forms are preferred over nonprototypical forms (Martindale, 1994)
  • People prefer “average” stimuli (Rhodes & Tremewan, 1996).
  • Stimulus complexity is often related to preference by an inverted Ushaped function (e.g., Berlyne, 1971; Vitz, 1966).

  • According to the discrepancy-attribution hypothesis (Whittlesea & Williams, 1998, 2000), fluency associated with processing a certain event is more likely to elicit a subjective experience (pleasure, familiarity, etc.) if the fluency is unexpected in light of the person’s processing expectations, which constitute a “norm” for the event (Kahneman & Miller, 1986).

    With low levels of complexity, the source of fluency is very salient. As complexity increases, the salience of the source of perceptual fluency decreases, enhancing the misattribution of fluency to beauty. However, further increases in complexity will eventually reduce processing fluency, leading to a decrease in perceived beauty. These mechanisms would combine to form a U-shaped relation between complexity and beauty, as predicted and found by Berlyne (1971)."