Voltron & evo psych

By Razib Khan | August 28, 2006 12:59 pm

voltron.jpgAs a child it seemed that everyone preferred Lion Voltron to Car Voltron. I was a contrarian and asserted that I preferred Car Voltron, and yet in my heart of hearts I knew Lion Voltron was the true bomb. Is there an evolutionary psychological reason why Lion Voltron would be more popular than Car Voltron? I mean, there are lions on national flags, but cars? Lions play a role in mythology, and C.S. Lewis even selected a lion as a Christ analogue. Could it be cognitively lions give us more “free information” and inferential power? Could it be that Lion Voltron simply fit into a more relatable mental slot than Car Voltron? After all, Lion Voltron was set on a quasi-medieval planet. Quasi in that there was a monarch, witch and a castle, but they also had lasers and space ships. In contrast, Car Voltron (vehicle Voltron) was “lost in space,” and so the whole creation of a humanoid mega-bot seemed a little canned.
Addendum: Typing Voltron into google images just brings back Lion Voltron. You have to type Vehicle Voltron to find any of the other morph, and even then the iamges aren’t very good. Just goes to show, Lion Voltron does roar, even today.

  • http://scienceblogs.com/clock/ coturnix

    Who are Voltrons?

  • speedwell

    No, no, no. It was just that Lion Voltron split into five lions, all very balanced and symmetrical and equal, like a team should be. Car Voltron was just a mashed together pile of Transformers.

  • http://www.nusapiens.blogspot.com NuSapiens

    My hunch is that our mammalian minds (we’re all descended from rat-like critters) are hard-wired to recognize some basic “predator” shapes. One would be like a large stalking feline with eyes and teeth. Another would be a bird of prey sillouettte.
    Especially the first seems to pop up all the time in childhood imaginative “monster fears.” The second shows up in military symbols all the time.
    Fun fact: cheetah originated in North America but were subsequently wiped out in their area of origin.

  • Benjamin

    I always thought that it was because lion Voltron maintained an inherently hegemonic and microfascistic grip on the marginalized car Voltron, subjugating his valid paradigm.

  • http://www.cognition.ens.fr/~alphapsy/index.en.php Olivier

    There is a very good paper adressing the question: why are some animal shapes more popular (in terms of cognitive, mythological, and google fame) than others? It was written by evolutionary psychologist Dan Sperber; you can find it there:
    Sperber’s conclusion is that two categories of animal species are privileged: the perfect, archetypical ones (such as the lion ot he eagle), and the imaginary, hybrid ones, such as the Unicorn, provided they combine very characteristic featurs of two species (a horse + antler=unicorn ; typical human+typical fish = mermaid, etc.).
    Sperber’s paper helped found the cognitive anthropology of religion in its time; the basic idea is that succesful representations gain their success from recruiting the right modules in our evolved mind (hence the success of the lion) and from combining these evolved intuitions in counter-intutive ways (hence the unicorn).

  • Patrick

    The car Voltron also had that lame “5 minutes of stored nuclear energy” thing that was always slowing it down.
    And don’t forget the little seen Gladiator Voltron.

  • K-dog

    All this mammalian race-memory stuff is just too rich.
    1. You could actually SEE how the Lion Voltron fit together.
    2. The lions, by themselves, were formiddable.
    3. They were color-coded.
    4. If your friend had the Lion Voltron toy, you could make the lions into the Voltron.
    5. Et Cetera


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About Razib Khan

I have degrees in biology and biochemistry, a passion for genetics, history, and philosophy, and shrimp is my favorite food. In relation to nationality I'm a American Northwesterner, in politics I'm a reactionary, and as for religion I have none (I'm an atheist). If you want to know more, see the links at http://www.razib.com


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