Why Do Humans find Symmetry pleasing?

Is it hardwired into our genes? I have noticed that I like houses that have some degree of symmetry. On the other hand, architects like HH Richardson and FL Wright have used a little bit of asymmetry, which looks good too. But I draw the line at architects like Frank Gehry-the asymmetric nature of his buildings really messes me up.
have any philiosophers pondered this question? What was the conclusion?

It’s probably hardwired to a certain extent. The healthy human body is symmetrical, so finding symmetry attractive means that we’re less likely to choose a mate with weird tumors or twisted limbs.

Symmetry basically means stability. Genetic, phsyical, whatever.

I would separate this into two parts:

  1. Why are organisms generally symmetric?
    Answer: It is more efficient to genetically code them this way. The instructions (genes) can simply say “take the instructions for that side and flip them around,” reducing the amount of information needed by about half.

  2. Why do humans find symmetry pleasing?
    Answer: It is the result of a mating preference. Asymmetry indicates a problem with the potential mate which could indicate bad genes. We want good genes. This preference is so important that it generalizes to everything we look at, not just potential mates.

It can also mean developmental defects, where some of the organism’s cells have died as a result of injury or lack of nutrition. Either case would probably make the organism less desirable as a mate.

It might have something to do with our hunting/gathering past too. We had to be very good at spotting edible things or dangerous predators from a distance. An antelope or a lion is bilaterally symmetrical, whereas a rock or a tree (usually) is not. Symmetrical things “pop out” for us because we’ve got some genetic programming that makes our brain especially responsive to these kind of shapes.

When I was a kid I saw an off-color magazine with photos of women with a third breast. To your point, I don’t think it was a big seller, although there must have been some underground market for it.

Symmetry speaks to order; order to predictability; predictability to security.
And beauty, if I remember those photos properly.

In addition to our symmetrical build, I’d guess that symmetry began because it’s easy to understand. In homes for instance, if there’s a window on each side of the door then you know in all probability there’s one room on each side.

The Greeks and Romans both loved symmetry, and because most western cultures either descended from or consciously imitated the Romans it’s been in our system as a sort of ideal for thousands of years. In 1st century Rome Vitruvius (in addition to his city grids) described the perfect home (of a wealthy person) as two identical wings divided by a peristyle garden. Palladio returned to it in droves in the Renaissance palaces, most of them with same size wings revolving around a circle or rectangle. It became familiar in public buildings and upscale private homes.

For the 90+% of commoners there was a period of non symmetry when people mostly lived in one room and it was more advantageous to enter from only one side, but it changed in America interestingly. The [http://missourifolkloresociety.truman.edu/marshall30.jpg](I House) was popular for more than a century throughout the eastern U.S.- almost invariably the same “2 over 2 with a hallway in between” architecture. In the south the dogtrot(an open breezeway) cleanly bifurcated the houses of most free white farmers, while the richer ones most commonly lived in a “4 over 4” (4 rooms upstairs with 4 rooms downstairs and a hallway in between- sometimes they’d get really creative and have 4 over 3). Even Thomas Jefferson in designing the Palladian floor plans of his unique mansion at Monticello had some sense of symmetry, with each wing roughly mirroring the other, and his mansion at Poplar Forest had an even stranger floorplan in that it was almost the exact same from any angle (the interior room being a perfect cube).

New England also- homes usually had more and smaller rooms than the south (since heating was more of a problem than cooling) but usually entered in the middle.

Even in today’s U.S., where a neighborhood in Duluth GA may look just like one in Duluth MN and central hallways are no longer in vogue due to air conditioning, it’s still there a bit. It’s common for a house to have three windows on each side of a relatively central door, and most of us instinctively know that there will be a living/dining/kitchen rooms or area to one side (far more often than not the right hand side as you enter) and bedrooms to the other. Thereagain, reinforces familiarity and that brings comfort.

Interesting is that so many pre-literate cultures from Ireland to Africa to the American Indians preferred round structures, then switched to symmetrical after literacy.

So, a combination of the symmetry of the human body and tradition. It makes us secure in a way that geodesic domes and irregular angles just don’t.

I saw a PBS special one time about this. They placed a baby in front of two screens onto which they projected pictures of human faces. Some symmetrical, some not. The baby almost always responded to the symmetrical face regardless of gender. From this I assume we apply this bias to the forms we create as well.

I believe the nature of symmetry preceeds any thought about it as a subject. Symmetry has it’s roots on the quantum level. Efficiency is one reason I would posit, however, the direction that atoms, electrons, protons, neutrons spin also tends towards symmetry. I guess you could say it is nature itself.

It’s not just symmetry, it’s specific symmetry. The ratio of 1 to 1.1614-the Golden Something

It’s not just left/right, there’s more. I’m flailing, somebody with a clue help me out please.:confused:

I’m so pleased to help out in the fight against ignorance.:rolleyes:

In my years as a practicing Architect I would say that people initially want symmetry–or they seem to ask for that. But in reality my experience is that they actually prefer asymmetrical arrangements as they are more natural. I personally enjoy symmetry but I find it sort of boring to be totally honest. It is the little moves that frankly moves things from symmetrical to asymmetrical that makes most things interesting. Think about your own face–it ‘appears’ symmetrical–but it isn’t. Those little quirks are what makes your face unique and interesting.

Nature in detail may be symmetrical but in reality it is not. Trees and bushes set up in a natural arrangement are not symmetrical–formal gardens are a man made environment and generally they come off a stiff and formal. Now I sometimes like that formal approach but in general I think most people prefer a more natural environment.

I also think the same is true of buildings. Any building that conforms to a strict symmetry usually does so at the expense of the function of the building. Rarely does the program function on a symmetrical basis and to force it makes a bad and unusable building.

So my supposition is that we actually don’t like symmetry if we really explore it deeper.

I spent a couple of years drafting for a Czech architect who loved the works of Wright. He claimed pure symmetry was boring and uninspiring, but balance was very important aesthetically

You’re looking for the Golden Ratio.