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.

Related Articles


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 November 21, 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 November 21, 2014).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Mind & Brain News

Friday, November 21, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Milestone Birthdays Can Bring Existential Crisis, Study Says

Milestone Birthdays Can Bring Existential Crisis, Study Says

Newsy (Nov. 21, 2014) — Researchers find that as people approach new decades in their lives they make bigger life decisions. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Your Complicated Job Might Keep Your Brain Young

Your Complicated Job Might Keep Your Brain Young

Newsy (Nov. 20, 2014) — Researchers at the University of Edinburgh found the more complex your job is, the sharper your cognitive skills will likely be as you age. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
100-Year-Old Woman Sees Ocean for First Time

100-Year-Old Woman Sees Ocean for First Time

AP (Nov. 20, 2014) — Ruby Holt spent most of her 100 years on a farm in rural Tennessee, picking cotton and raising four children. She saw the ocean for the first time thanks to her assisted living center and a group that grants wishes to the elderly. (Nov. 20) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Kids React to Lammily, The Realistic Barbie Alternative

Kids React to Lammily, The Realistic Barbie Alternative

Buzz60 (Nov. 19, 2014) — Artist Nickolay Lamm's Kickstarter-funded Lammily doll, based on his 'What Would Barbie Look Like as a Real Woman' project, is finally available to buy. Jen Markham explains how the doll's realistic proportions are going over with a test group of second-graders who are used to the impossible measurements of Barbie dolls. Video provided by Buzz60
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:

Strange & Offbeat Stories

 

Health & Medicine

Mind & Brain

Living & Well

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