Hardwired to seek beauty

Dennis Dutton in The Australian:

01658509635700Throughout history and across cultures, the arts of homo sapiens have demonstrated universal features. These aesthetic inclinations and patterns have evolved as part of our hardwired psychological nature, ingrained in the human species over the 80,000 generations lived out by our ancestors in the 1.6 million years of the Pleistocene.

The existence of a universal aesthetic psychology has been suggested, not only experimentally, but by the fact that the arts travel outside their local contexts so easily: Beethoven is loved in Japan, Aboriginal art in Paris, Korean ceramics in Brazil, and Hollywood movies all over the globe.

Our aesthetic psychology has remained unchanged since the building of cities and the advent of writing some 10,000 years ago, which explains why The Iliad and The Odyssey of Homer, and the Epic of Gilgamesh, remain good reading today.

We haven’t lost Pleistocene tastes for fat and sweet foods, nor have we lost our ancient tastes for artistic entertainment.

The fascination, for example, that people worldwide find in the exercise of artistic virtuosity, from Praxiteles to Renee Fleming, is not a social construct, but an evolutionary adaptation; the worldwide interest in sports comes from a similar source.

More here.