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Meeting Abstract

Beauty and pleasure: Beauty correlates with valence and anhedonia, but not arousal and depression

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Brielmann, A., & Pelli, D. (2018). Beauty and pleasure: Beauty correlates with valence and anhedonia, but not arousal and depression. In 6th Visual Science of Art Conference (VSAC 2018).

Cite as: http://hdl.handle.net/21.11116/0000-0007-6D9B-1
Philosophers, psychologists, and common sense agree that beauty is a kind of pleasure. Here, we assess the relationships between the intensity of beauty, valence (pleasure vs. displeasure), arousal (calm vs. excited), anhedonia, and depression. We use the 900 OASIS images and their normative valence and arousal scores. In this study, 757 participants rated how intensely they felt beauty from each image. If beauty is a kind of pleasure, the inability to experience pleasure (anhedonia) should prevent the experience of beauty. To test this, we obtained self-reports of anhedonia (TEPS), as well as depressive symptoms (PHQ-9) and current mood. We find that beauty ratings are highly correlated with valence (r=0.75) but mostly unrelated to arousal and depressive symptoms. In addition, the worse the mood or anhedonia participants report, the less beauty they experience from images that typically elicit high beauty. We thus provide the first normative ratings of beauty on a large set of images. Our results suggest that beauty is closely related to the experience of pleasure, but unrelated to arousal. Consistent with the association to pleasure, the feeling of beauty produced by nominally beautiful images is negatively correlated with low mood and anhedonia.