Evolutionary Aesthetics

pp 69-130

The Role of Evolved Perceptual Biases in Art and Design

  • Richard G. Coss

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The seminal ideas about the relationship of aesthetic appreciation and evolutionary theory emerged initially with the Darwinian construct of sexual selection that emphasized the importance of mate choice and physical attractiveness (Darwin 1885). Anthropomorphic linkage of processes of human intelligence and those of other species (Romanes 1886), coupled with emphasis on the role of natural selection in adjusting human intelligence (Spencer 1888), set the stage for describing behavior in terms of evolutionary history. The idea that innate knowledge accumulated over successive generations and influenced current behavior pervaded nineteenthcentury tomes that characterized behavioral relics as atavistic (Nietzsche 1909), especially the fearful behavior of children (Hall 1897). Jung (1916, 1972) continued the development of these ideas with his construct of the archetype as a species-typical pattern of thought that might account for cross-cultural similarities in mythology and graphical symbolism.