“One of the most enlightening books I have ever read.”

Timothy McGee, Ph.D., Professor Emeritus,
Department of Music, University of Toronto
Pretty Ugly: Why we like some songs, faces, foods, plays, pictures, poems, etc., and dislike others

Pretty Ugly is the child of a specialist and a generalist. Individually each has won awards; as a couple they won the Book Award of the American Psychological Association for their last book, The World of the Newborn.

Daphne Maurer is an experimental psychologist who studies the development of vision. She is Distinguished University Professor in the Department of Psychology, Neuroscience and Behaviour at McMaster University in Canada, and she is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada.

Charles Maurer is a free-lance writer who specializes in science and technology. He reads academic literature in many areas, and he has professional skills in graphic design and commercial photography.

Charles Maurer       Daphne Maurer

To be published 1 November, 2019 by Cambridge Scholars Publishing. You can pre-order a copy now. In North America the price is excessive but it can be ordered reasonably from some on-line shops in the UK, notably Wordery.com and Blackwells.co.uk.

327 pages • 143 illustrations, 66 in colour • A4



Download the table of contents and two chapters (1.4 MB).
People are chemical machines yet we (and some other animals) develop a sense of beauty. Why and how did this evolve? How is beauty formed?

The Maurers answer these questions as scientists with deep knowledge of the arts. They interweave experimental sciences with the histories of art, architecture, music, dance, speech, literature, and food.

Although we perceive each of our senses to be dramatically different, the Maurers show them all to be similar under the hood—similar in how they function and in how they shape our aesthetic experience.

Pretty Ugly is unique and iconoclastic, but it is solid. The Maurers spent 30 years researching and writing it.

This book covers so many fields that everyone will be a lay reader in some chapters. For this reason, the Maurers do not assume readers have any special knowledge or expertise. They avoid jargon, equations and formulae, and begin every discussion at an introductory level.

However, introductory does not mean elementary. This is a broad knife that slices deep.



“Why do we find some things attractive and others not? In this fascinating book, the authors take the reader on a vast intellectual journey to offer a comprehensive approach to answering this age-old question.”
Janet F. Werker, Ph.D., F.R.S.C.
Canada Research Chair
Department of Psychology
University of British Columbia


Pretty Ugly starts with some basics of physics and biology, then combines those with data from experimental psychology and from the histories of the all the arts. The result elaborates a framework that shapes all of human behaviour (and much of animal behaviour too).

Pretty Ugly is a serious academic book but it reads like popular science, so students would enjoy it as a textbook. To flesh out any particular subject, extra readings may be useful and references to those are in the endnotes. With appropriate supplementary readings it could suit diverse subjects like:
  • Psychology of Art
  • Psychology of Music
  • Perception and Cognition
  • Arts for Engineers
  • Aesthetics
Supplementary readings could do more than just add detail: they could also test the book's iconoclastic arguments and thereby teach critical thinking. This approach would be appropriate for any level of course from undergraduate to graduate.

For a free examination copy contact orders@cambridgescholars.com.



Download the table of contents and two chapters (1.4 MB).



“A gripping story of two pedants’ search for the truth...no, their search for the apparent truth...no, for the possibility of truth... no, for ....”
Alfred E. Neuman