Pretty, Pretty, Shiny, Shiny – Why We Love Shiny Things

Have you ever wondered why shiny objects are so appealing to us? It seems that there are very few things that sparkle and don’t immediately catch our attention whether we want it to or not. This is the reason children get glued to the TV, computer, and phone screens and the trick that has been used by marketing experts everywhere to promote products. This is even true of gambling websites – whenever a person browses online for the best reviews of slots, the banners and popups are designed with flashing light in order to attract customers. But why does this happen?

Bling Bling

Some people believe that the root of the phenomenon is social. Metals like gold and silver, along with jewelry, are often seen as symbols of wealth. In fact, you will often see people from primitive cultures decorating themselves with shiny objects in order to show how well-off they are, compared to others.

Even in civilized societies, the need to display gold rings, watches, and necklaces is present and almost unavoidable. Could it be that it is our need to appear rich that is making us desire all things that sparkle? However, that doesn’t answer the question of why children are attracted to these objects, seeing as how they have very little or no understanding of social constructs surrounding them.


A team of researchers from Belgium has tried another approach to the problem. They have conducted six separate studies and have come up with a wondrous discovery – the attraction to the shine is instinctive. In the study, participants often favored glossy objects, and the tests sometimes made the connection between the sparkle and water. The thirstier some of the participants were, the more they favored the glossy over the matted objects. The conclusion is simple – we associate the light we see with the water.

In the time before time, it was necessary for the nomadic tribes to try and find sustenance in the wild pretty much constantly. So, it is easy to understand how the light reflected off of the surface rivers, ponds, and lakes could be seen as salvation and treasure on an instinctive level. Perhaps there is still a connection between the shiny items and wealth, though the cause and effect might be reversed. It could very well be that we’ve come to appreciate rare and shiny metals and jewels not for their rarity, but their light, at least at first.


There is a reason your pediatrician will advise you against letting your child watch TV for more than a few minutes and absolutely forbids it in the earlier years of their development. The light not only catches our attention, but it also holds it captive. It makes it difficult to focus on other tasks and objects. Adults are also not immune to this. As stated before, gambling companies design their games and machines to make a lot of noise followed by flashy images, activating the pleasure centers in your brain. Think about that next time you want to spin a few slots.