20210426 On beauty and behaviour

Frans de Waal on Beauty and Behaviour

‘You look beautiful today!’ or ‘What a beautiful person!’ We are all familiar with such statements about us or other people. The fundamental question underlying these remarks is: What do we mean by beauty and how does it affect us?

Most people would say beauty is a subjective statement. Yet a volume of studies proved principles of attractiveness, where certain ratios and formulas can be applied to ‘justify’ beauty. Large eyes, small chin, symmetrical face… should we really believe in perfect universal physical traits? What distinguishes beauty, both as a biological phenomenon and a psychological function? How is beauty related to behaviour? And what about the animal kingdom, is beauty perceived the same way there?

About the BètaBreak

The BètaBreak is a monthly science platform of the Faculty of Science of the UvA. Every month different experts are invited to speak about the latest developments in science. Former editions discussed themes such as cultured meat, nuclear energy and psychedelics. The BètaBreak seeks to analyse various scientific topics from an interdisciplinary perspective. The platform has had the honour to welcome guests as Robbert Dijkgraaf, Eric Verlinde and Nobel Prize laureate Ben Feringa. For more information, go to: www.betabreak.nl

About the speaker

Frans de Waal is a Dutch primatologist and ethologist who mainly researches primate behavior. He is a member of the United States National Academy of Sciences, and the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences. He has viewed human society through the observation of animal behaviour, for instance by comparing chimpanzees’ performance to the human comportment in his book Chimpanzee Politics (1982). His most recent book is Mama’s Last Hug: Animal Emotions and What They Tell Us about Ourselves (2019).

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