The Aesthetic Psychology of Mathematics

12 Pages Posted: 24 Feb 2020

See all articles by Samuel Johnson

Samuel Johnson

University of Bath - School of Management

Stefan Steinerberger

University of Washington

Date Written: November 17, 2017

Abstract

Mathematicians often describe arguments as “beautiful” or “dull,” and famous scientists have claimed that mathematical beauty is a guide toward the truth. Do laypeople, like mathematicians and scientists, perceive mathematics through an aesthetic lens? We show here that they do. Two studies ask people to rate the similarity of simple mathematical arguments to pieces of classical piano music (Study 1) or to landscape paintings (Study 2). In both cases, there is internal consensus about the pairings of arguments and artworks at greater than chance levels, particularly for visual art. There was also some evidence for correspondence to the aesthetic ratings of undergraduate mathematics students (Study 1) and of professional mathematicians (Studies 1 and 2).

Keywords: Psychology of mathematics, Explanation, Aesthetics, Reasoning, STEM education

JEL Classification: D91

Suggested Citation

Johnson, Samuel and Steinerberger, Stefan, The Aesthetic Psychology of Mathematics (November 17, 2017). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3062208 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3062208

Samuel Johnson (Contact Author)

University of Bath - School of Management ( email )

Claverton Down
Bath, BA2 7AY
United Kingdom

HOME PAGE: http://www.sgbjohnson.com/

Stefan Steinerberger

University of Washington ( email )

box 354350
Seattle, WA 98195-4350
United States

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