No exploration of symmetry would be complete without discussing its influence on aesthetics. Visually, studies of cognitive psychology have found that humans are particularly sensitive to mirror symmetry, particularly when the axis of symmetry is vertical. According to an article by psychologist Yehouda Harpaz, humans are especially sensitive to symmetry because of the order upon which it is c ontingent. "Symmetrical objects/pictures have `internal' control, which gives the observer an impression of internal consistency. That would make them special for any observer, not only for humans," she says. She goes on to discuss the specific reactio n of cerebral neurons to axes of symmetry, finding that visually symmetric images appear more clearly to a viewers eye than other images. Symmetry can be found as a guiding element of many artistic lineages, most notably in Islamic Art and Architecture. Proteges of such artistic traditions, such as artist M.C. Escher, have taken the implications of symmetry beyond the purely "aesthetic," and have seized upon the visual tools contained in symmetry to create tessellation-based works that serve to trick, intrigue, and inspire viewers.
By interpreting the broader definition of aesthetics as the study of "perception" or "artistic experiences," our investigation of the aesthetics of symmetry encompasses music, theater, and literature. In music, composers as stylistically varied as Bach, the archetype of classical music, and Philip Glass, the founder of the Minimalist school of music, have utilized symmetry as a key tool in their musical compositions. Theater and Literature as word-based arts do not rely as heavily as art and music upon precise visual and structural symmetry; rather, they hinge more upon symmetry as a guiding concept representing order, meaning, and closure.
Page author: Kirsten Lodal