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From animal signals to art : manipulative animal signaling and the evolutionary foundations of aesthetic behavior and art production

Journal Contribution - Review Article

As humans are evolved animals, we propose a nonanthropocentric framework based on animal signaling theory to understand the evolutionary foundations of human art, instead of a classical anthropocentric approach based on sociocultural anthropology that may incorporate evolutionary thinking but does not start with it. First, we provide a concise review of the basics of the evolutionary theory of animal communication or signaling. Second, we apply this theory to specifically human aesthetic behavior and art and provide four empirical arguments or factors that reduce the conceptual gap between nonhuman animal signaling and human aesthetic-artistic behavior (two from the nonhuman and two from the human side) and that, as such, grant an implementation of human aesthetic behavior and art production within animal signaling theory. And, third, we explore the theoryU+2019s explanatory power and value when applied to aesthetic behavior and art production through proposing four valuable insights or hypotheses that it may contribute or generate: on artU+2019s operation within multiple functionally adaptive signaling contexts; on the basic evolutionary economics of art or what art is (for); on why art is functionally adaptive rather than a nonfunctional byproduct; and on how art is functionally rooted in competitive-manipulative animal signaling andU+2014unlike languageU+2014only to a lesser extent in cooperative-informative signaling. Overall, animal signaling theory offers a potentially integrating account of the arts because humans and their signaling behaviors are conceptually situated within a broader, transhuman field that also comprises nonhuman species and their behaviors, thus allowing for an identification of deeper commonalities (homologs, analogs) as well as unique differences. As such, we hope to increase insights into how acoustic, gestural/postural, visual, olfactory, and gustatory animal signaling evolved into music, dance, visual art, perfumery, and gastronomy, respectively.
ISSN: 1539-7718
Issue: 1
Volume: 96
Pages: 1 - 27