Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

What makes us musical animals

Date:
July 6, 2012
Source:
Universiteit van Amsterdam (UVA)
Summary:
Researchers argue that at least two, seemingly trivial musical skills can be considered fundamental to the evolution of music: relative pitch – the skill to recognize a melody independent of its pitch level – and beat induction – the skill to pick up regularity (the beat) from a varying rhythm. Both are considered cognitive mechanisms that are essential to perceive, make and appreciate music, and, as such, could be argued to be conditional to the origin of music.

In a forthcoming issue of Topics in Cognitive Science researchers from the University of Amsterdam (UvA) argue that at least two, seemingly trivial musical skills can be considered fundamental to the evolution of music: relative pitch -- the skill to recognise a melody independent of its pitch level -- and beat induction -- the skill to pick up regularity (the beat) from a varying rhythm. Both are considered cognitive mechanisms that are essential to perceive, make and appreciate music, and, as such, could be argued to be conditional to the origin of music.

While it recently became quite popular to address the study of the origins of music from an evolutionary perspective, there is still little agreement on the idea that music is in fact an adaptation, that it influenced our survival, or that it made us sexually more attractive. Music appears to be of little use. It doesn't quell our hunger, nor do we live a day longer because of it. So why argue that music is an adaptation? There are even researchers who claim that studying the evolution of cognition is virtually impossible (Lewontin, 1998; Bolhuis & Wynne, 2009).

Distinguishing between music and musicality

The alternative that Henkjan Honing and Annemie Ploeger of the UvA propose is, first, to distinguish between the notion of 'music' and 'musicality', with musicality being defined as a natural, spontaneously developing trait based on and constrained by our cognitive system, and music as a social and cultural construct based on that very musicality. And secondly, to collect accumulative evidence from a variety of sources (e.g., psychological, physiological, genetic, phylogenetic, and cross-cultural evidence) to be able to show that a specific cognitive trait is indeed an adaptation.

Both relative pitch and beat induction are suggested as primary candidates for such cognitive traits, musical skills that are considered trivial by most humans, but that turn out to be quite special in the rest of the animal world.

Once these fundamental cognitive mechanisms are identified, it becomes possible to see how these might have evolved. In short: the study of the evolution of music cognition is conditional on a characterisation of the basic mechanisms that make up musicality.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Universiteit van Amsterdam (UVA). Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Henkjan Honing, Annemie Ploeger. Cognition and the Evolution of Music: Pitfalls and Prospects. Topics in Cognitive Science, 2012; DOI: 10.1111/j.1756-8765.2012.01210.x

Cite This Page:

Universiteit van Amsterdam (UVA). "What makes us musical animals." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 6 July 2012. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/07/120706105428.htm>.
Universiteit van Amsterdam (UVA). (2012, July 6). What makes us musical animals. ScienceDaily. Retrieved July 31, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/07/120706105428.htm
Universiteit van Amsterdam (UVA). "What makes us musical animals." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/07/120706105428.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