The aesthetics of mathematical explanations

Samuel G. B. Johnson, Stefan Steinerberger

Research output: Chapter or section in a book/report/conference proceedingChapter in a published conference proceeding

1 Citation (SciVal)


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 asked 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 was 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).
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationProceedings of the 40th Annual Conference of the Cognitive Science Society
PublisherCurran Associates, Inc.
Number of pages6
ISBN (Print)9781510872059
Publication statusPublished - 25 Aug 2018

Publication series

NameProceedings of the Annual Conference of the Cognitive Science Society
ISSN (Electronic)1069-7977


Dive into the research topics of 'The aesthetics of mathematical explanations'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this