The Evolution of Art, Fiction, Movies, and Music

When asked about our leisure time activities, more than half the population will answer something in the context of the entertainment world. However, compared to our forebears, what might their sources of pastime be? This question triggers an idea of whether the emergence of the entertainment world also followed a particular lineage.

An Overview

Why do humans participate in an array of things that do not appear to have anything to do with surviving and procreating? Why do people spend many hours, weeks, seasons, and even decades producing and enjoying music, books, visual arts, and athletic events? These ostensibly "frivolous endeavours dominate some people's complete life." These trends necessitate a rationalization. To solve these conundrums, evolutionary psychologists have used two main strategies.

Display Hypothesis

The display assumption could be used to describe the first strategy. This theory holds that culture is "an endogenous entity originating from sexual rivalry amongst enormous quantities of people pursuing diverse breeding tactics in various mating venues." To disseminate courtship demonstrations to a range of women, men notably often produce and exhibit musical and artistic works: "As every adolescent recognizes and most academics abandon, cultural presentations by males promote sexual availability."

The display hypothesis can explain several well-known pieces of evidence about the striations of cultural showcases. It can, for starters, explain the gender inequalities in creating cultural goods. In the past, men have outdone women in creating art, theatre, and writing in various cultural contexts. This theory held that because women rarely had more short-term access to sex as a goal, they had fewer advantages to benefit from cultural displays.

The display theory can also explain how old different cultural displays are. Young adulthood is the phase when men are incredibly passionately immersed in intrasexual partner rivalry, and men produce many critical artistic pieces and songs during this time. In summary, the display theory explains the dispersion of ages and sexes in culture creation.

However, the display hypothesis cannot account for other literature, music, and art aspects. This cultural product's essence cannot be explained to start. Why do some songs move people while others fail to do so? Why do some people find Shakespeare's plays to be enthralling while finding many other playwrights' works to be tedious?

Why do some films garner millions of viewers while others become forgotten? The substance of cultural objects, not only their age, must be explained by a coherent theory of culture. Secondly, the display thesis cannot explain why some people spend excessive time alone appreciating musical and literary artwork in settings where no exhibit is visible.

Evolution of the Mind

Pinker offers a broad, if dubious, solution to these conundrums in a second attempt at clarifying culture. He contends that the solution is found in the mind's developed processes for various purposes rather than distinct modifications for artistry, music, and literature that "enable individuals to delight in shapes, colours, melodies, humour, tales, and mythologies."

For example, paintings that mirror these patterns can pleasingly trigger a colour vision system created for detecting ripe fruits. Artwork, portraits, videos, and websites can use psychological inclinations for indications to pregnant females to enjoyably recreate the rhythms the processes were initially designed to respond to and sought for.

Art, entertainment, and language can be constructed to "juice" several evolved psychological systems, much as stimulants can be made to "juice" our dopamine receptors. Humans have mastered activating already-existing mechanisms artificially by creating cultural artefacts that imitate the stimulus whereby the circuits were initially conceived. In other words, these cultural practices are nonadaptive consequences rather than adjustments. Pinker presents an identical case for music, speculating that it is audible tiramisu, an exquisite treat made to tease at minimum six of our senses.

These cognitive capacities encompass linguistics (such as music lyrics), aural scene assessment (where we must distinguish between sounds that originate from different places, as a bird cries in a loud environment), affective cries (such as whimpering, wailing, moaning, clamouring, and applause are metaphorically used to define melodic passages), habitat choice (such sounds as lightening, moving water, snarls, and more can indicate secure or dangerous surroundings).

Furher, motor coordination (such sounds as the groove, a ubiquitous element of tunes, imitate the motor function required for a wide range of activities, such as running and slicing, and signal characteristics like immediacy, sluggishness, and assertiveness). This hypothesis states that the musical patterns we enjoy are the ones that artificially imitate the organic stimulation our developed brains are wired to process.

One may have a comparable case for novels and films. Comedy and tragedy-themed language, plots, and stories can elicit pleasure feelings by engaging a variety of evolved circuits. It is likely no surprise that the most popular books and films, like Avatar, About Time, and Titanic, feature themes of intrasexual struggle, mate selection, romance, and potentially destructive antagonistic natural forces.

As Pinker put it, when we are engrossed in a flick or book, "we get a chance to witness gorgeous landscapes, schmooze with significant individuals, become obsessed with alluring men and women, safeguard dear ones, reach unachievable goals, and beat cruel opponents." One study of 36 popular plots found that most revolved around one of four areas: romance, sensuality, personal danger, or danger to the protagonist's family. Albeit not modifications in and of themselves, the cultural trends we create and ingest shed insight into human psychological science in an evolutionary context.

Over the past decade, the evolutionary psychology examination of the media, including movie and literary works, has exploded to the point where complete publications are now dedicated to these subjects. Analyses that go deep imply that evolutionary psychology can influence creative activities as various as the intricacies of cinema to the lyricism and politics of British literature.

Although it does not provide a conclusive statement on these cultural embodiments, using an evolutionary prism has revealed novel insights into areas previously believed to lack the principles of evolution that elucidate human nature.


As with everything else, the entertainment sector changes over time. The preferences and standards of the populace at any given moment significantly impact what is created and popularized. The current state of technology is another factor. These changes have an impact on film, television, and music. Even though they might seem inconsequential at the time, examining generations of entertainment uncovers essential developments.

Naturally, particular objects have endured the test of time, but their uses have changed. Entertainment has become much more frenzied, moving from having various songs to appeasing crowds everywhere. Our entertainment evolves alongside our preferences and will continue in the hereafter to reflect whatever the shared values at the moment.

Updated on: 12-Apr-2023


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