Evolution Aesthetics

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Evolutionary aesthetics refers to the theory in which H. sapiens' basic aesthetic preferences have evolved based on survival needs. It is the nature approach (with regards to "nature versus nurture" tug of war) that claims survival as a motivator for likeness within a species.

Aesthetic preference is something that ultimately varies from person to person. Whether it is culturally taught or branded into our genetic makeup, preferences for beauty, style, and other characteristics of aesthetics can all be linked back to preferences. Some theorists believe that the baseline of H. sapiens' preferred aesthetics is tied to Evolution. That is to say that we developed our taste in looks to accommodate survival and promote the wellbeing of our species. Based on this theory, things like color preference, preferred mate body ratios, shapes, emotional ties with objects, and many other aspects of the aesthetic experience can be tied with how we evolved. (Wang)

Safety, Danger, and Human Wellbeing

In order to survive from the Pleistocene era until now, certain things had to appear appealing or repulsive in order for humans to stay alive. For instance, rotting meat poses many dangers to the human race. From fatal food poisoning to Salmonella, the odds of harm befalling a human consumer is very likely. We as a species find the smell and taste of rotting meat repugnant. This mechanism can be argued as an evolutionary safeguard to protect members of the H. sapiens species from that specific harm. Humans enjoy eating things which are sweet and fatty as an adaptation for surviving through the Pleistocene era. (Dutton)

On the visual side of things, people harbor a general fear of the dark. Why is this? What benefit could staying in the light have? For one, staying in the light helps us avoid predators, hazardous obstacles, and other dangers that could be lurking in the dark. (Dutton) As children especially, it is important to be programmed to stay visible to others and out of harm's way. These preferences could directly impact the things that we are automatically as a species repulsed from for survival purposes.

Sexual Selection and Attraction

A species is programmed to seek a mate and continue to populate based on certain factors that will encourage species success. Like the peacock's tail feathers, many species base a substantial portion of their sexual attraction on mate appearance. Plumage, muscling, coloration, size, and other factors typically play roles in this, depending on the species in question. Sometimes the ratio of function to appeal is skewed to such that attraction is the only motivation. (Dutton) For humans, attraction can be oversimplified and defined as curvaceous women for easier childbirth and strong men with large upper bodies for building, hunting, and supporting a family. (Carey) The reasons behind these prevalent cues of attraction for H. sapiens can be linked to a more simple and straightforward method of natural selection. (Dutton)

Sources Cited

1. Carey, Bjorn. 2006. 'The Rules of Attraction in the Game of Love,' "Live Science."

2. Dutton, Denis. 2003. 'Aesthetics and Evolutionary Psychology' "The Oxford Handbook for Aesthetics."

3. Kaidel, Dahlia. 2010. 'Art and brain: insights from neuropsychology, biology and evolution', Journal of Anatomy, pp. 177-183

4. Wang, H.M., Chen, K. H., & Chou, G. J. 2011. 'Pleasurable elements in emotional design,' Designing Pleasurable Products and Interfaces.

5. Zaidel, D.W. 2010. 'Art and brain: insights from neuropsychology, biology and evolution,' Journal of Anatomy, 216:177–183.