Why our brain love curves?

What do you think about this car?

It is often said that curvilinear shapes are more appeal to human being. It is based in some belief that we associate sharpness with danger and we get in a warning state, or also because we are surrounded with nature and all the curves within it makes us feel more comfortable in round spaces. Today we are going to analyze those beliefs and try to get them down-to-earth.

We are going to review the work of Vartanian (2013) about the impact in the brain when visualizing curves. It is actually well believed that curvature elicits pleasant emotions, but it is very difficult to measure.

To reach our goal, Vartanian ran some investigation using fMRI to understand what is happening in our brain in terms of activations when we are exposed to these types of curves and lines represented in the stimuli (in this case as architectural pictures).

From a strictly behavioral perspective, the first insight of the investigation is that the amount of curves was highly correlated with the beauty rating. 

Then the study consisted of presenting participants in a functional MRI (fMRI) scanner with photographs of interior spaces that varied in contour.

Neuroanatomically, the results demonstrated that judging the beauty of curvilinear spaces was associated exclusively with an increase in ACC activity over and above judging the beauty of rectilinear spaces. ACC is part of Brown et al.’s core circuit for aesthetic processing (Brown 2011 - Naturalizing aesthetics: Brain areas for aesthetic appraisal across sensory modalities), and its activation here is consistent with the wealth of behavioral data that point to the involvement of emotion and reward in preference for curved objects.

For the beauty judgment run, the contrast of curvilinear-rectilinear spaces revealed significant activation in ACC exclusively (Z = 3.54, x = –6, y = 42, z = –6, k = 11).


Beauty and curvilinear contour activated certain regions (ACC) that are strongly responsive to the reward properties and emotional salience of objects. So take that in mind when you are designing stuff for your business (from logos, products to even websites) to help yourself from a pure neuroscientifically point of view to improve the impact in your consumer.

As always, thanks for taking the time to read, any comment will be well received.