Fractal Beauty

Green leaves with the same pattern

Beauty is in the eye of … little kids?

This is Sandra Tsing Loh with the Loh Down on Science.

Ever get lost in the clouds? Hypnotized by ocean waves? If you’ve spent time looking at the veins on a leaf or branches on a tree, you know that nature is FULL of patterns. Past research has shown that adults love these geometric designs, also called fractals. But are we born with these preferences or do they take time to BLOSSOM?

Kelly Robles and a team at the University of Oregon investigated. They showed adults and children sets of fractals of varying complexity. These images resembled coastlines, clouds, and trees. The designs of low to middle complexity are most similar to patterns often seen in nature.

For each pair, the participants picked their favorite design.

Results? The kids preferred the same patterns as the adults! Those fractals most common in nature still charmed little ones, despite their having years less experience with the world.

This suggests we have an innate appreciation for natural patterns in nature!

And we’ll LEAF it at that!

Reference: Robles, K. E., Liaw, N. A., Taylor, R. P., Baldwin, D. A., & Sereno, M. E. (2020). A shared fractal aesthetic across development. Humanities and Social Sciences Communications,  7, 158 (2020).