Category Archives: Magical

The Neuroaesthetics of New Union South

What makes art so attractive?  What makes architecture inspiring?  What makes the new Union South at the University of Wisconsin – Madison so effing sweet?  The answers may lie in your brain.  Here are three new features of the Union South that make our brain go crazy:

1. Symmetrical Lines:

In a paper published in the Journal of Vision, our brains are extremely sensitive to symmetry.  We have certain cells that are sensitive to the orientation of the light hitting our eyes.  When these bands are present in architecture, more cells are activated leading to a greater response.  In the Stett, a restaurant/stage of the Union South, clean lines cross the stage.

2. Color:

The brightly colored union chairs are back!  Sure, you knew that you loved them over at the Memorial Union, but why?  Harvard University pinpointed where color is excited within our brain.  Near the back of the brain, just below our temples, we can see a burst of activity.  The more colors that we see and experience, the more activated our brains will be.  I guess the crayon ‘tickle me pink’ kind of makes sense now…

3.  Juxtaposition:

What makes one view stand out over another?  A Stanford review tells us that the fusiform gyrus has cells that respond to specific orientations.  When something, like the new rock wall, has different angles and points, multiple cells are active and excite a larger area of our brain.  Different walls = different cells = no way I’m making it to the top.

Looks like Union South is doing everything right in order to give us the exciting experience in mind (pun intended).


This is your brain on Disney

If a dream is a wish your heart makes, then your brain must be doing something right.

Recent research published in the International Journal of Tourism Anthropology examines the effect that Disney has on neurological development.  The paper, written by University of Missouri professor Craig T. Palmer, refutes a previous hypothesis of the neurological development of creativity, storytelling, humor, and fantasy within the human brain.  Deemed the mating mind hypothesis, it suggested that our minds developed these artistic centers as a way to attract and court the opposite sex. (Sounds pretty reasonable to me.)  Courting leads to reproduction, which then leads to stabilizing evolution providing for larger centers in the brain relating to those traits.

To refute this statement, Palmer used the concrete example of Disneyland to compare it to.   Now I don’t know if Palmer actually wanted to refute the hypothesis or just find some sort of research that would allow him to spend an ample amount of his time in the park, but this guy knows how to pick a thesis. Palmer said that the development of these sections in the brain were actually more related to the parenting strategies used to tweak the behavior of their children.  The characteristics are seen as more of a transmission of culture rather than as a means for natural selection.  It would just so happen to be that those that were wittier and had a love for all things Disney would reproduce (giving hope to Disney fanatics everywhere).

So what does this mean in the long run?  It means that if you want your kids to listen to you and grow up to be respectable adults, looks like you’re heading to Disneyland.  So when you’re trying to find that new parenting technique to discipline an unruly child, just listen to Pinocchio and, “always let your conscience be your guide.”