“Truth is beauty, beauty truth, sir!”
“But the truth can be harsh and disturbing! How can that be considered beautiful?”
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: we poets are less unacknowledged legislators and more idiot savant mathematicians of instinct and luck.
Rolf Reber, together with mathematician Morten Brun and psychologist Karoline Mitterndorfer, all from the University of Bergen, Norway, have reported first empirical evidence for the use of beauty as truth and they have provided an explanation for this phenomenon, based on the processing fluency theory of beauty.
Mathematicians and scientists reportedly used beauty as a cue for truth in mathematical judgment. French mathematician Jacques Hadamard, for example, wrote in 1954 in his famous book, “The Psychology of Invention in the Mathematical Field,” that a sense of beauty seems to be almost the only useful “drive” for discovery in mathematics. However, evidence has been anecdotal, and the nature of the beauty-truth relationship remained a mystery.
In 2004, Rolf Reber (University of Bergen), Norbert Schwarz (University of Michigan), and Piotr Winkielman (University of California at San Diego) suggested – based on evidence they reviewed – that the common experience underlying both perceived beauty and judged truth is processing fluency, which is the experienced ease with which mental content is processed. Indeed, stimuli processed with greater ease elicit more positive affect and statements that participants can read more easily are more likely to be judged as being true.
I have no fucking idea what that means, but I sure know when to end a line. (Of course, I don’t surf science sites for poetry references, but it seems like a bit of an oversight on the part of the article author to not use a Keats hook for the piece, doesn’t it?)