Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Language Of Music Really Is Universal, Study Finds

Date:
March 20, 2009
Source:
Cell Press
Summary:
Native African people who have never even listened to the radio before can nonetheless pick up on happy, sad, and fearful emotions in Western music, according to a new article. The result shows that the expression of those three basic emotions in music can be universally recognized, the researchers said.

A saxophonist. Native African people who have never even listened to the radio before can nonetheless pick up on happy, sad, and fearful emotions in Western music.
Credit: iStockphoto/Richard Clarke

Native African people who have never even listened to the radio before can nonetheless pick up on happy, sad, and fearful emotions in Western music, according to a new report published online on March 19th in Current Biology. The result shows that the expression of those three basic emotions in music can be universally recognized, the researchers said.

"These findings could explain why Western music has been so successful in global music distribution, even in music cultures that do not as strongly emphasize the role of emotional expression in their music," said Thomas Fritz of the Max-Planck-Institute for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences.

The expression of emotions is a basic feature of Western music, and the capacity of music to convey emotional expressions is often regarded as a prerequisite to its appreciation in Western cultures, the researchers explained. In other musical traditions, however, music is often appreciated for other qualities, such as group coordination in rituals.

In the new study, Fritz, Stefan Koelsch, and their colleagues wanted to find out whether the emotional aspects of Western music could be appreciated by people who had no prior exposure to it. Previous studies had asked similar questions about people with little experience with a particular musical form, for instance Westerners listening to Hindustani music, they said. But to really get at musical universals requires participants who are completely naïve to Western music.

Fritz enlisted members of the Mafa, one of about 250 ethnic groups in Cameroon. He traveled to the extreme north of the Mandara mountain ranges, where they live, with a laptop and sun collector to supply electricity in his backpack.

Their studies showed that both Western and Mafa listeners, who had never before heard Western music, could recognize emotional expressions of happiness, sadness, and fear in the music more often than would be expected by chance. However, they report that the Mafa showed considerable variability in their performance, with two of twenty-one study participants performing at chance level.

Both groups relied on similar characteristics of music to make those calls; both Mafas and Westerners relied on temporal cues and on mode for their judgment of emotional expressions, although this pattern was more marked in Western listeners.

By manipulating music, the researchers also found that both Western listeners and African listeners find original music more pleasant than altered versions. That preference is probably explained in part by the increased sensory dissonance of the manipulated tunes.

"In conclusion," the researchers wrote, "both Mafa and Western listeners showed an ability to recognize the three basic emotional expressions tested in this study from Western music above chance level. This indicates that these emotional expressions conveyed by the Western musical excerpts can be universally recognized, similar to the largely universal recognition of human emotional facial expression and emotional prosody." Prosody refers to the rhythm, stress, and intonation of connected speech.

The authors include Thomas Fritz, Max Planck Institute for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences, Leipzig, Germany; Sebastian Jentschke, UCL Institute of Child Health, London, UK; Nathalie Gosselin, Universite´ de Montreal, Montreal, Canada; Daniela Sammler, Max Planck Institute for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences, Leipzig, Germany; Isabelle Peretz, Universite´ de Montreal, Montreal, Canada; Robert Turner, Max Planck Institute for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences, Leipzig, Germany; Angela D. Friederici, Max Planck Institute for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences, Leipzig, Germany; and Stefan Koelsch, Max Planck Institute for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences, Leipzig, Germany, University of Sussex, Falmer, UK.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Cell Press. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Thomas Fritz, Sebastian Jentschke, Nathalie Gosselin, Daniela Sammler, Isabelle Peretz, Robert Turner, Angela D. Friederici, Stefan Koelsch. Universal Recognition of Three Basic Emotions in Music. Current Biology, 2009; DOI: 10.1016/j.cub.2009.02.058

Cite This Page:

Cell Press. "Language Of Music Really Is Universal, Study Finds." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 20 March 2009. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/03/090319132909.htm>.
Cell Press. (2009, March 20). Language Of Music Really Is Universal, Study Finds. ScienceDaily. Retrieved July 31, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/03/090319132909.htm
Cell Press. "Language Of Music Really Is Universal, Study Finds." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/03/090319132909.htm (accessed July 31, 2014).

Share This




More Mind & Brain News

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Dieting At A Young Age Might Lead To Harmful Health Habits

Dieting At A Young Age Might Lead To Harmful Health Habits

Newsy (July 30, 2014) — Researchers say women who diet at a young age are at greater risk of developing harmful health habits, including eating disorders and alcohol abuse. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
It's Not Just Facebook: OKCupid Experiments With Users Too

It's Not Just Facebook: OKCupid Experiments With Users Too

Newsy (July 29, 2014) — If you've been looking for love online, there's a chance somebody has been looking at how you're looking. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
How Your Face Can Leave A Good Or Bad First Impression

How Your Face Can Leave A Good Or Bad First Impression

Newsy (July 29, 2014) — Researchers have found certain facial features can make us seem more attractive or trustworthy. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Losing Sleep Leaves You Vulnerable To 'False Memories'

Losing Sleep Leaves You Vulnerable To 'False Memories'

Newsy (July 27, 2014) — A new study shows sleep deprivation can make it harder for people to remember specific details of an event. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
 
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:  

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

    Environment News

    Technology News



      Save/Print:
      Share:  

      Free Subscriptions


      Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

      Get Social & Mobile


      Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

      Have Feedback?


      Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
      Mobile iPhone Android Web
      Follow Facebook Twitter Google+
      Subscribe RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
      Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins