Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Beauty Is Truth In Mathematical Intuition: First Empirical Evidence

Date:
November 24, 2008
Source:
University of Bergen
Summary:
First empirical evidence for the use of beauty as truth in mathematical intuition reported. French mathematician Jacques Hadamard 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, until now evidence has been anecdotal, and the nature of the beauty-truth relationship remained a mystery.

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.

Related Articles


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. Researchers invoked processing fluency to help explain a wide range of phenomena, including variations in stock prices, brand preferences, or the lack of reception of mathematical theories that are difficult to understand.

Applied to mathematical reasoning, processing fluency, stemming either from familiarity with problems or from attributes of a task, is predicted to increase intuitively judged truth. As a first step towards testing this assumption, the authors of the study demonstrated in two experiments that symmetry, a feature known to facilitate mental processing and to underlie perceived beauty, is used as heuristic cue to correctness in arithmetic problems.

The researchers constructed additions, consisting of dots. For example, 12 dots plus 21 dots equaled 33 dots. Half of the additions were correct; the others were wrong, such as 12 dots plus 21 dots equaled 27 dots. Half of the additions had symmetric dot patterns (symmetric additions), the other half asymmetric patterns (asymmetric additions). These additions were presented briefly, e.g., in one experiment 1800 milliseconds, and student participants without training in mathematics had to decide immediately after the addition disappeared whether it was correct or incorrect.

Participants were more likely to judge symmetric additions than asymmetric additions to be correct. As this was also the case when additions in fact were incorrect, the finding cannot be explained by the fact that symmetric additions were easier to count or to estimate: In this case, symmetric additions that were incorrect would have been less likely to be judged correct. The results clearly show that participants used symmetry as an indication to correctness, or beauty as truth.

The authors have shown that people who do not have enough time to analyze the problem use heuristic cues in order to assess the correctness of a proposed solution. This simple setup serves as a model for the more complicated situation where a mathematician has discovered a plausible solution to a problem and now wants a quick assessment of whether this solution “feels” right. These findings suggest a solution to the mystery why beauty serves as a cue for truth in the context of mathematical discovery.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of Bergen. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Reber et al. The use of heuristics in intuitive mathematical judgment. Psychonomic Bulletin & Review, 2008; 15 (6): 1174 DOI: 10.3758/PBR.15.6.1174

Cite This Page:

University of Bergen. "Beauty Is Truth In Mathematical Intuition: First Empirical Evidence." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 24 November 2008. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/11/081120073130.htm>.
University of Bergen. (2008, November 24). Beauty Is Truth In Mathematical Intuition: First Empirical Evidence. ScienceDaily. Retrieved March 5, 2015 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/11/081120073130.htm
University of Bergen. "Beauty Is Truth In Mathematical Intuition: First Empirical Evidence." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/11/081120073130.htm (accessed March 5, 2015).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Computers & Math News

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Star Wars-Inspired Prototype Creates Holographic Display

Star Wars-Inspired Prototype Creates Holographic Display

Reuters - Innovations Video Online (Mar. 5, 2015) A prototype holographic display named Leia - after the Star Wars princess who appeared in holographic form asking Obi-Wan Kenobu for help - is demonstrated at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona. Matthew Stock reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
IKEA and Samsung Launch Embedded Wireless Charging Range

IKEA and Samsung Launch Embedded Wireless Charging Range

Reuters - Innovations Video Online (Mar. 5, 2015) Samsung and IKEA hope their new embedded wireless charging products, launched at Barcelona&apos;s Mobile World Congress, will tempt consumers eager for plugless power. Jim Drury reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Samsung Unveils $30,000 'Dream Doghouse'

Samsung Unveils $30,000 'Dream Doghouse'

Buzz60 (Mar. 5, 2015) On display at the Crufts dog show in England, the &apos;dog kennel of the future&apos; comes with features like a doggie treadmill and Samsung tablet. Mike Janela (@mikejanela) has more. Video provided by Buzz60
Powered by NewsLook.com
Doctor in Your Pocket Is Getting Smarter

Doctor in Your Pocket Is Getting Smarter

Reuters - Business Video Online (Mar. 5, 2015) Mobile apps are turning smartphones into a personal doctors, with users able to measure heart rate, blood pressure and even blood sugar. But will it change our behaviour? Ivor Bennett reports from the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Space & Time

Matter & Energy

Computers & Math

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins