Sex and design in our evolutionary cousins: The perception of beauty in nature

Tamra C. Mendelson, Michael J. Ryan


Taking an evolutionary approach to the question of beauty, we discuss the expression and perception of sexual beauty across the animal kingdom. Animals experience beauty in their brains, and animal brains are tuned to features of the environment most relevant to their survival. Over evolutionary time, sexually reproducing animals have exploited that tuning to maximize their attractiveness to the opposite sex, often leading to extreme courtship traits and behaviors. These are the traits of sexual beauty. Combining modern principles of neuroscience and neuroaesthetics with established principles of evolutionary biology, we aim to understand the biological basis and evolution of beauty in all animals, including ourselves.


beauty; neuroaesthetics; perceptual fluency; sensory bias; sexual selection

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