Watching football, I saw a number of diamond commercials and I wondered why we value sparkly things.
Shiny things have a value, usually because they tend to be ductile, durable metals, but also because we like seeing images of ourselves. That seems to be at least a plausible explanation, however speculative it might be.
But sparkly items don’t have that value, and their uses are much more limited.
- Human eyes naturally detect movement, and specifically rapid changes of light and dark. Yet, one would expect this to trigger a “fight-or-flight” response rather than attraction. After all, if a human saw rapidly changing light and dark, that was probably a sign to run in the opposite direction.
- Humans who were attracted to sparkly things were more likely to be attracted to sparkly moving water, which may have fewer contaminants and be less likely to kill you.
- Humans who were attracted to sparkly things were more likely to find shiny rocks and minerals, which were useful for, say, starting fires or making stone tools. (This is pretty questionable, since many of the early stone tools weren’t shiny at all.)
- It’s all cultural: humans value sparkly objects for purely social/cultural reasons.
Like I said, this is all highly speculative, and there’s no probative value in this exercise whatsoever. It just seems strange how much we really like sparkly objects, without considering why we do.