What do rappers, brides and burners have in common? They all like shiny objects! And apparently so does everyone else! Extravagant rappers obsess over bling, which they flaunt at events and sing homages to in their songs. Brides give their partners heart attacks by demanding they spend half their salary on the biggest, shiniest stone they can afford. Dusty free-spirited burners cover themselves in LED gear and travel into the deep playa just to see beautifully illuminated structures. Our attraction to shiny objects is undeniable. However, what a lot of people don’t know is that having such an affinity for sparkles and glitter is more innate and hardwired than we ever thought.
This was first observed by scientists, who noticed babies will pick up shiny toys more often than dull ones or will lick shinier plates a lot more frequently. And because one can argue this attraction is nothing more than a learned association, which equates bling to wealth, these scientists decided to put their theory to the test. The University of Houston in collaboration with Ghent University in Belgium, conducted a series of 6 studies involving both adults and children, which was published in the Journal of Consumer Psychology.
The first study was a simple survey involving both children ages between 4-5 (who haven’t learned these associations to wealth yet) and adults, who chose whether they preferred glossy to matte finishes in leaflets. The overwhelming majority chose the glossy finish. In another one of their studies, they blindfolded 46 test participants and handed them both glossy and matte papers and asked them to envision a landscape. Almost everyone imagined a landscape involving more water when handed the glossy finish vs the matte one.
In their final experiment, they formed 3 groups. One was given crackers to eat without water, one crackers with water and the last one was the control group so they were given neither. Afterwards all the groups looked at 8 photos, half on a glossy and half on a matte finish. All 3 groups showed a preference towards the glossy photos but the thirsty group rated them much more attractive than the other two.
The scientist concluded their assumption that our desire for shiny objects is innate, had a pretty good basis. But can you guess why that is? I’m sure you must have gotten it by now and if you did you are probably right! The hypothesis set forward was that humans are innately programmed to like shiny things because of their need for water! It is a basic survival instinct hardwired in our biology and from an evolutionary perspective it makes sense.
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