Home Mind & Brain New Study Reveals Link Between Hand Movements and Aesthetic Judgements

New Study Reveals Link Between Hand Movements and Aesthetic Judgements

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Researchers Linghe Li and Hanlin Wang from the Department of Psychology at Hebei Normal University recently discovered a fascinating connection between hand movements and aesthetic judgements. The study has been published in the journal Neuroscience Letters and offers novel insights into how our physical actions can influence our perception of beauty.

The researchers aimed to explore the metaphorical association between horizontal hand movements and aesthetic judgements of faces. This study builds on the principles of embodied cognition, which suggests that our physical experiences can significantly impact our cognitive processes, including our perception of beauty. The study employed a joint categorical response task, where participants were required to classify faces as beautiful or ugly by moving a mouse to the left or right.

The results of the study indicated a clear metaphorical association between hand movements and aesthetic judgements. Specifically, participants were quicker to judge faces as beautiful when moving the mouse to the left and ugly when moving it to the right. This “beautiful-left, ugly-right” condition resulted in significantly shorter reaction times compared to the reverse condition. This finding was supported by larger amplitudes in early event-related potential (ERP) components such as the N170, early posterior negativity (EPN), and the late component P300, indicating enhanced neural processing in the metaphorically congruent condition​​.

The study’s findings align with the concept of embodied aesthetics, which posits that our aesthetic experiences are rooted in our sensory-motor interactions with the world. By demonstrating that horizontal hand movements can influence aesthetic judgements, the research provides empirical support for the idea that physical actions are intertwined with cognitive evaluations of beauty. This suggests that our judgments of beauty are not merely abstract cognitive processes but are also shaped by our bodily experiences and movements​​.

The study utilised ERP analysis to investigate the neural underpinnings of the observed effects. Three primary ERP components were examined:

  • N170: This component, associated with the early holistic perceptual encoding of faces, was found to have larger amplitudes in the “beautiful-left” condition. This indicates that faces judged as beautiful in this condition were processed more efficiently at an early perceptual stage​​.
  • Early posterior negativity (EPN): The EPN component, related to emotional processing, was also larger in the “beautiful-left” condition. This suggests that this condition elicited stronger emotional responses, aligning with the affective mediation hypothesis of embodied aesthetics​​.
  • P300: The P300 component, associated with stimulus categorisation and decision-making, showed higher amplitudes in the “beautiful-left” condition. This indicates that participants were more motivated and attentive when making aesthetic judgements in this condition, leading to faster responses​​.

The study involved 27 right-handed college students who participated in a facial beauty/ugliness judgement task. Participants were seated in a controlled environment and asked to move a mouse left or right to classify facial images displayed on a screen. The ERP data were collected using a 64-electrode cap and analysed to measure the neural responses associated with the different judgment conditions​​.

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