WNPR

Is Beauty In The Eye Of The Beholder?

Jun 21, 2017

I find great joy in walking in the dead of winter along the river trail near my house. Everything leaves my mind as I watch the Canadian geese take flight, their wings flapping together as they lift and swoop over my head. I'm in awe of their beauty.

We all know beauty when we see it in a piece of art, a person's face, the crimson of a summer sunset, or even in the physics of the universe. Our brain reacts in kind, releasing chemicals that enhance our pleasure of the sight we behold. But, we don't really know what beauty is or if it's essential to our survival.

Nor do we understand our complicated relationship with it. We are mesmerized by it as we seek to downplay its importance. Perceptions of beauty are universally understood, biologically-driven and culturally-conditioned by a marketplace that makes big money by promoting unrealistic expectations on beauty, particularly for women.

What, exactly, is beauty?

GUESTS:

  • Anjan Chatterjee - Professor and Chair of Neurology at Pennsylvania Hospital and member of the Center for Cognitive Neuroscience at the University of Pennsylvania and the author of The Aesthetic Brain: How We Evolved to Desire Beauty and Enjoy Art
  • Maria Konnikova - Writes a column on psychology and culture for The New Yorker, and is the author of Mastermind: How To Think Like Sherlock Holmes and The Confidence Game
  • James Shires - Facial plastic surgeon in private practice in Tennessee, formerly Director of Facial Plastic Surgery at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine and Montefiore Medical Center in New York

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Colin McEnroe, Jonathan McNicol, and Chion Wolf contributed to this show.