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← Why do we find mountains beautiful?

Al Denelsbeck's Avatar Jump to comment 19 by Al Denelsbeck

Laughter, to some extent at least, seems to be a release of tension. And as others have said, there is a social aspect of it, even in babies. Some of our other emotions are the same, probably because it enhanced the cohesiveness of the tribe.

We take a rather disturbing amount of delight in the misfortunes of others, but this might be distantly related to the competition we engage in all of the time, vying for position in the tribe or amongst sexual competitors. The person who looks silly just removed some of the pressure from us to move ahead of them. It's a half-ass theory right at the moment...

As for beautiful landscapes and vistas, I started thinking some time back that it might have something to do with a drive to explore, to expand our territories. Most birds and many mammals, for instance, chase off the youngsters just before they reach the age of competing for food sources and mates, in order to protect the good situation that they have found for themselves. Humans, however, might have developed a different instinct to spread out on their own without (necessarily) being chased by the parents.

If you think about it, this seems to be almost universal, and has existed for a while. There's little actual reason to believe that that spot in the distance is somehow better than the one we're standing on, but we often look at travel as something very compelling. How many of us just "have to go somewhere"?

This might also be coupled with our curiosity, which seems to have some significant connections to our 'puzzle' drive. Perhaps the most distinctive difference in human brains is the ability to figure things out, even abstractly, and in the lack of anything really useful, we engage in crossword puzzles and murder mysteries. So the wide vista might represent something new and exciting, satisfying (however temporarily) our sense of discovery and the delight in new experiences. We see the river and wonder where it goes, or if the view is better from the other mountaintop. We see the expanse of water and wonder just how interesting it is on the other side.

Such an instinct can serve to accommodate growing populations, and likely helped us survive the various glacial events and sea-level changes throughout hominid history, when our ancestral ecological niches changed for the worse. And before the advent of agriculture and food storage, to some extent we had to travel with the growing seasons to maintain a balanced diet.

So perhaps the exhilaration that we feel when looking at landscapes has nothing to do with 'beauty,' but is instead a feeling of "That looks like fun! Let's go!" And we have it because it worked for us sometime(s) in the past when those that lacked it failed to survive the changing conditions.

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Then again, I'm uneducated and just winging it, so this all might be turd balls.

Wed, 11 Jul 2012 18:13:27 UTC | #948911