To many people, "evolutionary psychology" implies "genetic determinism." This common error makes it hard to understand how there could be an evolutionary account of human creativity. Darwin proposed his theory of natural selection to account for the existence of complex order, such as the structure of the eye. Yet creativity implies the generation of novel, unpredictable, non-deterministic behavior—apparently the opposite of order. Whereas the eye's structure makes parallel light-rays converge to a point, creativity makes ideas diverge in all directions. Creativity seems too chaotic, both in its mental processes and its cultural products, to count as a biological adaptation in the traditional sense. So how could it have evolved?
This chapter reviews how evolution favors unpredictable behavior in many animals, and suggests that these capacities for randomness may have been amplified into human creativity through sexual and social selection. We shall see that behaviors are often randomized by evolutionary design, not by accident. Creativity is not just a side-effect of chaotic neural activity in large brains: it evolved for a reason, partly as an indicator of intelligence and youthfulness, and partly as a way of playing upon our attraction to novelty. By understanding how natural selection can favor unpredictable strategies in competitive situations, we may better understand how sexual selection could favor the benign unpredictability of creativity and humor in courtship.
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