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The new, new thing attracts us because of its mysterious potential, not its rationalized value

The new, new thing attracts us because of its mysterious potential, not its rationalized value The new, new thing attracts us because of its mysterious potential, not its rationalized value
Source : Emily Burdfield-Steel via researchgate (modified)
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#behavioural science
#Supernormal stimulus

[Let’s] reflect upon the plight of one particular bug, the male julodimorpha beetle, who like us at times, can't get enough of a bad thing. His misplaced desire is so powerful that it threatens the survival of his species.

While in flight, the male scans the dry ground of the Australian outback, looking for love. He seeks out the largest, reddest female he can find because these two traits, size and color, impart instinctual cues about the genetic fitness of his mate. Suddenly, the sight of his dream girl stops him mid-air. He composes himself and approaches the sultry beauty.

But the male of the species is not known for subtlety. Genitalia erect, he is ready for action and begins his lovemaking as soon as he lands on her. But his rude advances are rebuffed. However, he is determined to satisfy her, whether she is willing or not. He remains faithful, even as other suitable females pass him by. He wants only the biggest, the reddest and therefore, the most attractive female.

Undeterred, he keeps humping until either the sun bakes him to a crisp or the Australian Tyrant Ants cover his body and begin dismembering him limb from limb. Finally, he dies, never knowing that he unsuccessfully tried to impregnate a ravishingly beautiful bottle of beer.

To the julodimorpha beetle, the beer bottle's size, hue, and dimpled bottom are an accentuated embodiment of female allure. His story of fatal attraction is tragic, but it is not uncommon. The phenomenon is known as “supernormal stimuli,” a term coined in the 1930s by the Dutch Nobel laureate Niko Tinbergen, to describe exaggerated features, which appeal to an animal’s evolutionary instincts but elicits stronger responses than the real thing.

Supernormal stimuli is seen across many species, most notably, our own.

(...)

Before mocking the gullibility of beetles, birds and fish, consider our own weakness for the things we perceive to be better than the real thing. Society and technology have evolved much faster than our instincts, leaving us vulnerable to the same kinds of adverse influences.

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