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Beauty enhances learning and production

A scientific study has shown that an appealing environment accompanied by a pleasant experience makes learning easier.

Beauty helps to learn more and better. It may sound trite but it is true, and that’s not all – beauty is not only conducive to better learning, it also helps to work better and to absorb knowledge in a more thorough and effective manner. Good corporate culture has known this for a while, yet most people still have not. Yet, the relevance of an appealing teaching environment and enticing methods has always been apparent in everyday practices, and it is now supported by a study that demonstrates the deep connection between aesthetic appreciation and learning mechanisms. The research paper, published in the Journal of Experimental Psychology: General by the American Psychological Association.

and entitled “Nice and easy: mismatch negativity responses reveal a significant correlation between aesthetic appreciation and perceptual learning”, is the result of serious research undertaken by the BraIn Plasticity and behavior changes Research Group (BIP), part of the Department of Psychology of the University of Turin, in collaboration with Harvard University’s Department of Economics. Through a non-invasive brain imaging technique – electroencephalography – researchers have demonstrated that our nervous system is better at processing things that we subjectively find more beautiful. Indeed, beauty can be considered a “conscious symptom” of automatic processes when drawing information from the environment that surrounds us, and the more effective these processes are, the greater aesthetic appreciation we derive.  Pietro Sarasso, Marco Neppi Modona, Nicola Rosaia, Pasqualina Perna, Paolo Barbieri, Elena Del Fante, Raffaella Ricci, Katiuscia Sacco, Irene Ronga – the study’s authors – even talk about “aesthetic feelings”: not as idle, abstract feelings, but possibly as the reward we get from our nervous system when it acquires knowledge through an agreeable interaction.

In other words, the authors believe that the positive sensation we feel when we are exposed to something we like could be a signal response from our brain when it acquires new information from the sensory environment that surrounds us – in other words, experiencing beauty could be the reward for having learned something new.

Obviously, this piece of research that the two universities have undertaken in collaboration will have a significant and far-reaching impact – not only on education and work in general (in terms of approaches to learning pathways, and especially rehabilitation ones, for instance), but also by providing some tangible evidence to what, until now, was only speculation, and that will further enhance the development of good corporate culture.

Nice and easy: mismatch negativity responses reveal a significant correlation between aesthetic appreciation and perceptual learning (“Nice and easy: mismatch negativity responses reveal a significant correlation between aesthetic appreciation and perceptual learning”)

Sarasso, P., Neppi-Modona, M., Rosaia, N., Perna, P., Barbieri, P., Del Fante, E., Ricci, R., Sacco, K., & Ronga, I.

Journal of Experimental Psychology: General (2021).