Scientists have come some way toward figuring out why we love nude pictures. Brain imaging studies have localised areas in the brain that are specialised in detecting human bodies in the environment. Researchers at the University of Tampere and the Aalto University, Finland, have shown that the perception of nude bodies is boosted at an earlier stage of visual processing than the perception of clothed bodies. In the study, participants were shown pictures of men and women.
The Naked Truth: The Face and Body Sensitive N170 Response Is Enhanced for Nude Bodies
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The nude figure is a tradition in Western art , and has been used to express ideals of male and female beauty and other human qualities. It was a central preoccupation of Ancient Greek art , and after a semi-dormant period in the Middle Ages returned to a central position in Western art with the Renaissance. Athletes, dancers, and warriors are depicted to express human energy and life, and nudes in various poses may express basic or complex emotions such as pathos. Unclothed figures often also play a part in other types of art, such as history painting , including allegorical and religious art , portraiture , or the decorative arts. Nude female figures called Venus figurines are found in the art of the Upper Palaeolithic , and in historical times, similar images represent fertility deities. Other significant non-Western traditions of depicting nudes come from India , and Japan, but the nude does not form an important aspect of Chinese art. Temple sculptures and cave paintings, some very explicit, are part of the Hindu tradition of the value of sexuality, and as in many warm climates partial or complete nudity was common in everyday life.
Nudity sparks the brain
Recent event-related potential studies have shown that the occipitotemporal N component - best known for its sensitivity to faces - is also sensitive to perception of human bodies. Considering that in the timescale of evolution clothing is a relatively new invention that hides the bodily features relevant for sexual selection and arousal, we investigated whether the early N brain response would be enhanced to nude over clothed bodies. In two experiments, we measured N responses to nude bodies, bodies wearing swimsuits, clothed bodies, faces, and control stimuli cars. We found that the N amplitude was larger to opposite and same-sex nude vs. Moreover, the N amplitude increased linearly as the amount of clothing decreased from full clothing via swimsuits to nude bodies.
It's a scenario you can likely relate to. Maybe, smirking, you send a flirtatious reply. Or maybe you scoff at the unsolicited advance and ignore it. Your reaction to these kinds of images obviously depends largely on the person who sent it, and their relationship with them.