Beauty lies in the brain of the beholder

From: J. R. Molloy (
Date: Thu Oct 11 2001 - 11:44:35 MDT

Beautiful people spark a brain reaction
Hazel Muir

Catching the eye of someone beautiful triggers a flurry of activity deep in
the brain, new research has found. The discovery may shed light on why first
impressions last when we meet new people.

Evidence is growing that in animals, a region of the brain called the ventral
striatum becomes active when the animal anticipates a reward of food. The same
region becomes active in drug addicts and compulsive gamblers when they are
about to indulge their habit.

Knut Kampe of University College London and his colleagues wondered whether a
social "reward" - the sight of an attractive face - would have the same
effect. To find out, they scanned the brains of eight men and eight women as
they looked at 160 photos of 40 different people in quick succession. The
volunteers then rated how attractive they found the faces they had seen.

Social 'gift'
Unattractive faces did not activate the volunteers' brains. But the ventral
striatum became more active when the photo was of an attractive person looking
straight out at the viewer, and less active if the person's gaze was averted.

Kampe thinks this makes sense, because exchanging looks with an attractive
person represents a social "gift", while it's disappointing to go unnoticed.

Interestingly, these responses were not sexual - they happened regardless of
the gender of the person in the photo. We might link any attractive people
with "reward" because they have high social status. "Meeting a potential good
friend or someone who might influence our career might be very rewarding,"
says Kampe.

He adds that the response seemed quick and automatic and might partly explain
evidence that we make snap judgments of people within three or four seconds of
meeting them.

Journal reference: Nature (vol 413, p 589)

- --- --- --- ---

Useless hypotheses, etc.:
 consciousness, phlogiston, philosophy, vitalism, mind, free will, qualia,
analog computing, cultural relativism, GAC, Cyc, Eliza, cryonics, individual
uniqueness, ego, human values, scientific relinquishment

We move into a better future in proportion as science displaces superstition.

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