Is our love of shiny objects an evolutionary trait?

Dec 21, 2023

Throughout history, humans have always created jewellery, using the available precious metals, gemstones, glass and enamel, with each period favouring different styles and complexities. The affection for shiny objects did not stop there though, with similar adornments made for chariots, horses, carriages and more. 

But what all these things have in common is their shine, their lustre, their glossy reflections that beguile the eye. The evidence is all around us, from the lifestyles portrayed in the glossy magazines to the diamond rings we gift the ones we love.

One possible explanation for our attraction to all things bright is that over time we have come to associate shine with wealth and luxury. Researchers have even considered the question from an evolutionary perspective, after learning of earlier studies that showed very young children would lick glossy objects when they were given them.

Research finds chrome components the natural choice

The new researchers from Ghent University in Belgium, wondered if there was a connection between an evolutionary need for water and the resemblance of shiny objects to this vital survival resource, triggering a deeply held belief, now manifesting as affection for glossy, bright objects.

Six experiments were designed to test this hypothesis. Initially they needed to prove that a preference for shiny, glossy objects was innate and not a learned association with wealth. The first experiment showed matt and glossy leaflets to both children and adults, with the vast majority showing a preference for the glossy images.

The researchers then blindfolded adult test participants and handed half of the group glossy paper and the other half matt paper. Without even seeing the sheet, those receiving the glossy paper perceived it to be higher quality and more attractive.

These findings were not enough to make the connection between a biological urge for water and humans attraction for shiny things – but remember, it’s not just humans who display this affection for glossy objects, with birds such as Magpies, avid collectors of shiny material.

To explore the possible link between water and glossy objects even further, in the blindfold test, when asked what landscape might appear on the page, participants holding glossy paper described scenes with more water – potentially showing the link between glossy and wet.

Link between our thirst for survival and chrome trim

Finally, test participants were placed in three groups and the first group received crackers to eat without water. Another group were again given crackers, but this time with water to drink and the final group had neither crackers nor water.

Then, each group were shown photographs, with half printed on glossy paper and half on matt. All three groups preferred the glossy pictures, but importantly for our test, the thirstier participants were, the more they preferred the glossy pictures.

Those who had eaten crackers without water much preferred the glossy images, then the participants that and neither and finally those that had the water with their crackers. All in all, a thoroughly interesting way to perhaps prove that it’s not our fault as humans that we are drawn to shiny, glossy objects as it’s in our DNA.

The researchers argued that an instinct for water may indeed play a role in our attraction to glossy, shiny objects and indeed surface finishes, which is where we come in at Borough, the UK’s leading chrome plating of plastic specialist.

A chrome plating history to reflect on

Whilst in the 75 years the business has been working with metals and chrome, the enduring attraction of this bright durable finish has featured inside and outside of many of the world’s leading automotive brands, from Rolls Royce and Bentley to Mercedes and MINI.

In recent years we have pioneered different finishes on our chrome, offering satin, nickel, copper and colour washes, but for exterior use or in extreme conditions, such as those found in a shower, bright chrome continues to lead the way. Especially the way Borough Chrome makes it shine.

However, many designers specifying interior trim have shown an increasing interest in different finishes, recognising the risk of shiny surfaces reflecting sunlight into a driver’s or passenger’s eyes can be reduced with our new satin chrome or nickel finish.

These subtle changes make modern automotive interiors extremely pleasant places to sit and enjoy the driving experience offered by the very best cars. And here at Borough Chrome, we know car buyers find chrome attractive thanks to the development of their evolutionary forefathers and not thanks to marketing.

Designers wanting to move away from chrome and hark back to the same-colour painted trim of the nineties, must appreciate they are up against 10,000 years of evolution. Humans like things that shine and Borough Chrome will ensure the shine brought to your projects is durable, cool to the touch and a reflection of the quality of the product it adorns.