Why Beautiful Things Make us Happy – Beauty Explained

Why Beautiful Things Make us Happy – Beauty Explained

A lot of things can be beautiful. Landscapes, faces, fine art, or epic architecture; stars in the sky. Or simply the reflection of the sun on an empty bottle. Beauty is nothing tangible, it only exists in our heads as a pleasant feeling. If we have to define it, we perceive something as beautiful if its color, shape, form, or proportion somehow are appealing or delightful to us. Beauty is a very human experience that’s been with us for millions of years. Even our first tools were trimmed to a symmetrical shape. Researchers have tried to find practical reasons why our ancestors invested the time to make their tools look nice, but couldn’t really identify any. It seems that early humans shaped their tools into teardrops, simply because they liked them better that way. Throughout our history, the definition of beauty has changed a lot. Ideals have shifted or turned into their opposites. But beyond individual and contemporary tastes some things have never really gone out of fashion. The golden ratio, symmetry, or fractal patterns can be found in the art and architecture of cultures from our beginnings, to today. Humans seem to be in mysterious, inherent agreement about the beauty of certain things. The patterns that keep coming up are all rooted in nature. They became part of our biology because they helped our ancestors survive. Fractal patterns for example, occur all over nature. In snail shells, flower heads; waves or clouds Identifying and assessing these things and phenomena correctly used to be vital. Do those clouds mean rain will come soon? Are these waters safe to swim through? Can I eat this? Another pervasive thing is symmetry. In nature it means everything is as it should be Stems and trees and leaves and blossoms all grow symmetrically A deer with impressive antlers is probably a source of nutritious meat. A deformed wheat hair may not be safe to eat. A symmetrical face is more likely to belong to a healthy and fertile mating partner. Because symmetry is so common in fauna and flora, it’s extremely familiar to our brain. It helped our ancestors evaluate their environment more easily, and react quickly to danger. Things that helped us survive activate the reward center in our brain. recognising signals of safety and nutrition, triggered nice feelings in us. So our sense of beauty probably evolved from pattern recognition, but it goes way beyond that now. Humans seem to have evolved an instinct for beauty that is deeply hardwired into us. It remain even after other processes in our brain stop working. Alzheimer’s patients were asked to rank the beauty of several paintings Then the experiment was repeated two weeks later The patients have long since forgotten the paintings, but still ranked the beauty of the paintings in the same order. One could argue that this doesn’t say much. So what if people stick to their personal preferences? But other research has shown that we have a sort of lowest common denominator when it comes to beauty. In different experiments, people were asked to distinguish real from fake abstract paintings. Some were originals by Mondrian and Pollock that were painted based on strict rules like fractal patterns, while the imitations were not. The majority picked out the original artworks. This worked for paintings from both artists, even though their arts are very different. Another experiment also used abstract artworks but, asked people to pick them out among similar paintings made either by children or animals. Again, the test subjects pointed out the legit paintings whose patterns were carefully planned and not random So while we have a hard time pinning down what beauty is or what it’s based on, we somehow recognize it when we see it Humans don’t navigate nature trying to survive day by day anymore We left the natural world behind and created our own. We made the objects that surround us the things we wear and use and look at. As we spread over the planet and our numbers grew, we shaped a completely man-made environment. In the process of doing so, we often neglected beauty in favor of functionality cost or efficiency. We built rows and rows of concrete housing blocks that nobody wants to live in. We have ugly underground subway stations, shabby public service buildings, and sprawling malls. One bland, standardized box beside the next. Humans, don’t like monotony. Eye tracking software has shown that people keep focusing on details and ornaments of architecture while brushing quickly over blank walls And not only are they no fun to look at, they actually make us miserable. Experiments with skin sensors showed that looking at vast, dull facades makes us feel bored and uncomfortable. This kind of boredom has been linked to raised heart rates and stress levels and the opposite seems to be true, too. Over the last decades more and more studies have found that surroundings that are actually aesthetically pleasing to us can improve our well-being, our behavior, cognitive function, and mood. Our bodies and brains react measurably and visibly to everything that surrounds us Beauty in particular has such a strong impact on our well-being that making useful things beautiful can actually make them better. In 2017, a hospital examined recovery factors through observation and interviews with patients and found that visual art in their lounge areas made them more comfortable and happier about their stay in general. Another study looked at how well patients recovered in a hospital that had two wards. A very old and rather ugly one, and a newly renovated ward. To the researchers’ surprise, the patients that stayed in the new, renovated environment, needed less pain medication and were released on average, two days earlier than patients recovering in the old ward. More beautiful surroundings made them feel better, physically. Beauty also has an effect on us on a daily basis. It can improve our general happiness. A study that looked at the main factors influencing the happiness of adults revealed an unexpected result. Besides things like good health in a harmonious family life, individual happiness is affected by how beautiful you find the city you live in. Beauty scored even higher than cleanliness or safety. So what can we learn from all of this? We know that we humans have been fine-tuned for millions of years to process visual input and assess our surroundings. It’s just what we’re programmed to do and we’re starting to learn more about how much beauty as a property is really influencing us. Beauty meets an inherent need for meaningful information. Maybe it would be worth giving it more space in this man-made world we have created. This video was a collaboration with the creative agencies, Sagmeister and Walsh as a contribution to their upcoming beauty exhibition. The exhibition will be shown at the Mak Vienna from Oct. 23, 2018 – Mar. 31, 2019 and a Mak Frankfurt from May 01, 2019 – Sept. 30, 2019 If you want to learn more about the impact of beauty and see tons of gorgeous installations and multimedia objects, go check it out! review: Doğa Poyraz Tahan


  1. Idk man, when I see modern, symmetrical box buildings it makes me happy. It reminds me of our progress, and the minimalistic symmetry of them eases my mind and is less of a distraction. You mention that we enjoy symmetry, yet society seems to also over exaggerate by making everything overtly colorful and bright, as well as cartoonish and almost stressful. While the points In the video are true to an extent, we must still focus on practicality for the general population when designing new buildings, streets etc., as the future generations will likely benefit the most from it.

  2. Its interesting to see how we slowly figure out why we did things the way we did them.
    Simple things like figuring out why we built houses the way we did in the past compaired to the efficient industrial blocks we built later.

  3. I personally like building and skyscraper because of their magnitude and design like the shard which has a unique design.
    Just imagine being human from few thousand years ago ,current architecture must seem like the creation of Gods.
    This is my opinion and my perspective on the thing I find beautiful

  4. So if the Communist Bloc spray-painted visually appealing artwork on their prefabricated concrete complexes, then the people living in the communist society would be much happier???

    Good to know…

  5. This explain a bit of my depression of certain room , for example I got depressed overtime looking at my room , bored to see it , So every month I moved things around my room to make it a little bit different . It feels good .

  6. After my jaw surgery, I wanted to renovate my room. I was beaming ear to ear when I got a cork board, because I could make it my own and make my surroundings more beautiful. It’s such a simple but effective way of healing. Don’t brush aside the power of pleasant surroundings.

  7. I'm watching this in the hotel in Norway that my mom works at and if it turn my head a little I have a nice forest, mountains and a beautiful lake to look at

  8. That's why the depressing videos you make are still fun to watch. I love your new style. I just thought of sharing this because I'm hoping that my opinion matters. Because of your new art style, I'm starting to hate your old videos. Hahaha.

  9. As a fan of Brutalist architecture, I live in a "boring" concrete block of flats and enjoy its simplicity and repetitiveness. Though my taste might be an acquired cultural feature.

  10. The tear drop spear makes a lot of sense. The back is curved so you can pull it out easier and it won't brake and I think we all understand the front.

  11. Mystical metaphysical mumbo jumbo about survival of the fittest, cannot explain happiness, which is an emergent effect. The definition of happiness is those feelings people say they want, while beauty has come to be defined as expressing Fractal Dragon equations. Every classical painting and work of music has turned out to express a Fractal Dragon, while in literature James Joyce's "Finnegan's Wake" express a multifractal of a Fractal Dragon and Mandelbrot combined. Such an extreme four and five fold symmetry is similar to those found recently in pi, which has turned out to express a multidimensional equation, and not be simply random. Another example is Time Crystals, being studied in a physics lab near you. What's missing from this picture can make all the difference in the world, once you realize its impossible to create a perfect vacuum, and everything expresses both humble and elegant simplicity or, particle-wave duality.

  12. Me: sees colorful poison
    Brain: drink
    Me: why it’s poi-
    Brain: D R I N K
    Me: but I don’t wanna die
    me: dies in russian

  13. El dinero no lo es todo!
    Pero ayuda bastante
    Mejor hospital = mas dinero
    Mejor casa = mas dinero
    Mejor auto = mas dinero
    Mejor ropa = mas dinero

  14. I've always thought about this concept from a more mathematical perspective: Kolmogorov Complexity.

    Kolmogorov Complexity defines randomness by how much something can be compressed, or in other words seeing how much it shrinks when you replace a piece of data with instructions on how to build the data. If something is very repetitious, it will be very compressible, as the instructions on how to build it will be much simple than the data itself. On the other hand, if something is very random, it will be very incompressible, as the instructions on how to build it will basically just be a copy of the data.

    The interesting thing is that you can use Kolmogorov Complexity to model the amount of useful information contained in a piece of data. If the data is very compressible, then there is not much actual information there (such as with Mary Had a Little Lamb or Do Re Mi Fa So La Ti Do). On the other hand, if the data is very incompressible, then there is a large amount of information, but it is likely to be random rather than useful (such as banging on a keyboard). As humans seek useful information, they are instinctively drawn to data with a Kolmogorov Complexity in the middle of the spectrum, where there exist patterns that indicate the data is not just random noise, but the data is also complex enough to be potentially useful.

  15. the protestant's churches don't include the beautification of faith.
    that's why I love the churches of orthodox and Catholics. you really feel the living faith within the art.

  16. This was kind of an eye opener for me in surprising ways. I never realized just how deeply aesthetically pleasing things influence my mood and behaviors.

  17. That's why modern "architecture" and modern "art" is rubbish. Glass buildings in geometric shapes is nothing to be proud of. They are ridiculous and boring.

  18. Me: That girl seems beautiful
    Brain: That's symmetry, it means better potential mate! Go for her!
    Me: I don't have time!
    Brain: Beauty is survival. You have a hell lot of time for survival, don't you? GO!

  19. I remember being in 6th grade in a dense apartment complex and putting colored paper on my walls to increase the sunlight being reflected. Now I know the problem.

  20. So-crates talked about this —- Get your philo-sophia on! "Everything is Beautiful in its own way" its a Willy nelson and Dolly Parton song listen to it and then you will understand. On the subject of beauty I found Dolly Partons mammary glands to be beautiful — its a guy thing girls you will never understand.

  21. Kurzgesagt can you make videos about space travel and future advances in technology more often most of your topics is mostly about thing's here on earth


  23. The majority of humans are not smart, they're idiots… If those humans, or humanity as a whole, obtained 300 IQ or more, we could advance as species…

  24. I am a Brazilian subscriber of the channel, but when I went to watch this video the subtitle between 1:40 and 1:50 simply disappeared, please correct this mistake in the subtitle in Brazilian Portuguese. (Sorry for the english errors, this text was translated from portuguese to english through google translator)

  25. Thank you for sharing amazing information!!!! Can you tell me what app or software you used to make the videos? They are so beautiful!!! I need it to do my assignment. I am really looking forward to hearing from you!!!

  26. I mean, the Japanese Empire took a few hundred years off from governing even as their nation descended into war and chaos, all in favor of art.
    Yeah, beauty is pretty damn important.

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