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Supernormal Stimuli (Konrad Lorenz)

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Encyclopedia of Evolutionary Psychological Science
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Artificially exaggerated stimulus; Optimally primed stimulus; Super-stimulus; Supernormal sign stimulus.


Supernormal sign stimuli – a term invented by Niko Tinbergen and now usually abbreviated simply as supernormal stimuli (1951, 44) – are exaggerated/heightened imitations of naturally evolved phenomena/objects that exert a stronger attraction/desire on their target audience than the natural phenomena/objects themselves (Barrett 2010, 3). According to Tinbergen, the phenomenon was first reported by O. Koehler and A. Zagarus (1937), but it was then further developed by Tinbergen together with his colleague Konrad Lorenz. An example of a supernormal stimulus from the natural world is the cuckoo egg. Cuckoo eggs appear very similar to those of their host but are usually somewhat larger and/or brighter.

It has been suggested in evolutionary terms that “instances of supernormality may reflect the action of two factors during phylogeny: (a) asymmetrical selection...

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Correspondence to Vincent Barnett .

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Barnett, V. (2021). Supernormal Stimuli (Konrad Lorenz). In: Shackelford, T.K., Weekes-Shackelford, V.A. (eds) Encyclopedia of Evolutionary Psychological Science. Springer, Cham.

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