23 June 2010

Why we desire, display and design

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Nancy Etcoff
Humans around the world wear clothing and accessories to hide their bodies, to emphasise them, even to evoke magic. Indeed, personal ornaments appear to be among the first forms of symbolic communication. US psychologist Nancy Etcoff linked fashion to psychology in the sixth Premsela Lecture: ‘Born to Adorn: Why We Desire, Display and Design’, delivered on 26 May in Amsterdam.

At the yearly Premsela Lecture, a speaker from outside the world of design addresses current developments in the field. The yearly lectures are organised by Premsela, Dutch Platform for Design and Fashion.

“”Dress, clothes and fashion are rare topics in the social sciences,” Etcoff said, “particularly the branch I inhabit, at the intersection of neuroscience and psychology. Perhaps that is because historically, there has been far more interest in reason and the mind than in emotion and the body, in depth rather than surface, [although] dress has as much to do with reason as emotion, as much to do with the mind as the body, and as much to do with our inner depths as our surface.”

She outlined the variety and importance of our reasons for adornment, ending with a call to designers to use science to push fashion further in its enhancement of human well-being.”

Etcoff, author of The Survival of the Prettiest, The Science of Beauty, is a faculty member at Harvard Medical School and a practicing psychologist at Massachusetts General Hospital.

Download text of lecture

(via InfoDesign)

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