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Author Topic:   Evolution of Music Appreciation
Lokins
Junior Member (Idle past 3375 days)
Posts: 23
From: Montreal, Quebec, Canada
Joined: 05-28-2009


Message 1 of 28 (510408)
05-31-2009 1:32 AM


Hi EvC,

I'm relatively new here, so I'm sorry if this topic has been seen before. But I have a question for all of you, that has been perplexing me for some time.

One of the things that I have an interest for is thinking of any human trait (very often psychological), and then wondering why that trait evolved to be the way it is. One trait that I've found it very hard to find an evolutionary explanation for is our appreciation for music. Why is it that it pleases us to listen to music?

Appreciation for music doesn't seem at first glance to be directly beneficial to our survival. One thing that my friend suggested is that it could be a sort of side-effect of another trait that we developed. I have trouble thinking of what this trait might be.

I'd be very interested to hear what you guys think!


Replies to this message:
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AdminNosy
Administrator
Posts: 4754
From: Vancouver, BC, Canada
Joined: 11-11-2003


Message 2 of 28 (510409)
05-31-2009 1:40 AM


Thread moved here from the Proposed New Topics forum.

  
slevesque
Member (Idle past 2923 days)
Posts: 1456
Joined: 05-14-2009


Message 3 of 28 (510420)
05-31-2009 4:09 AM


Another one I can think of is blushing ...

I mean, only humans blush. And even black people blush even if is not visible.

But music is still very interesting, the capacity of people to play music is also very interesting. How does it benefit your survival if you play music ? wouldn't it be more advantageous to hunt, etc. ?

I feel that these will reveal to be dumb questions, but I would still like to see the answer anyways


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Dr Adequate
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Posts: 16107
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Message 4 of 28 (510430)
05-31-2009 5:33 AM
Reply to: Message 3 by slevesque
05-31-2009 4:09 AM


How does it benefit your survival if you play music ?

Try asking: how does it benefit your reproduction if you play music?


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 Message 3 by slevesque, posted 05-31-2009 4:09 AM slevesque has not yet responded

Replies to this message:
 Message 5 by Lokins, posted 05-31-2009 11:46 AM Dr Adequate has responded

  
Lokins
Junior Member (Idle past 3375 days)
Posts: 23
From: Montreal, Quebec, Canada
Joined: 05-28-2009


Message 5 of 28 (510454)
05-31-2009 11:46 AM
Reply to: Message 4 by Dr Adequate
05-31-2009 5:33 AM


Sexual Selection?
Dr Adequate writes:

Try asking: how does it benefit your reproduction if you play music?

I actually thought of this too. I think what you're getting at is that it's a form of sexual selection? Those who play music will be more likely to reproduce because it attracts the opposite sex?

I would be able to believe that for people who play music. But still, why have we evolved to be attracted to music, and draw pleasure from it?


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RAZD
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Posts: 20154
From: the other end of the sidewalk
Joined: 03-14-2004
Member Rating: 4.1


Message 6 of 28 (510483)
05-31-2009 6:06 PM
Reply to: Message 5 by Lokins
05-31-2009 11:46 AM


Re: Sexual Selection?
Hi Lokins, and welcome to the fray.

I actually thought of this too. I think what you're getting at is that it's a form of sexual selection?

Correlate the attractiveness of people with what they do. Rock stars, artists, dancers, all attract mates through arts, among them music.

Look at mating behavior in various animals. Some dance, some have songs for mating that are not used the rest of the year, some have displays. These can be related to fitness as healthy and resourceful individuals should be better that sick, malnourished etc individuals.

Appreciation for music doesn't seem at first glance to be directly beneficial to our survival. One thing that my friend suggested is that it could be a sort of side-effect of another trait that we developed. I have trouble thinking of what this trait might be.

Consider that intelligence could be a side-effect of sexual selection for creativity in mating displays, dances and songs - and again compare the attractiveness of people to their apparent intelligence.

Perhaps sex is what has made humans so different from other apes ...

Enjoy.


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This message is a reply to:
 Message 5 by Lokins, posted 05-31-2009 11:46 AM Lokins has not yet responded

Replies to this message:
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AustinG
Member (Idle past 3452 days)
Posts: 36
Joined: 04-06-2009


Message 7 of 28 (510517)
05-31-2009 11:38 PM
Reply to: Message 6 by RAZD
05-31-2009 6:06 PM


Re: Sexual Selection?
quote:
Lokins writes: One thing that my friend suggested is that it could be a sort of side-effect of another trait that we developed.

Richard Dawkins makes the same argument for religion. I think its logical to theorize the same for music.

---------------------------------------------------------

quote:
Dr. Adequate writes: Try asking: how does it benefit your reproduction if you play music?

This is a good thought; however it can lead to a chicken/egg argument. The opposite sex would first have to appreciate music before it would be beneficial as a mating ritual. You probably didn't mean it this, but I thought I would bring up the point.

--------------------------------------------------------------

Does music appreciation have to be beneficial? It could be simply a nuetral trait that exists because nothing selected against it.

If you want to theorize that music appreciation is beneficial in some way, you must start primitive...lets say with simple sounds. Are there sounds that a hunter-gatherer would benifit by being attracted to? The call of a mammoth? The sound of a deer? The coo of fowl? The symphony of a free-flowing streem? I think its reasonable to say an attraction to these noises would be beneficial to early humans. This is all that is needed for music; once early humans were able to construct primitive instruments, they could replicate the sounds they heard in nature.

Cultural evolution might also play a roll. If you have read any Dawkins you may know about what he calls memes. According to dictionary.com a meme is a cultural item that is transmitted by repetition in a manner analogous to the biological transmission of genes. By repeating Dawkin's idea here I have demonstrated meme theory. I replicated his idea. Other scholars will change and add to this idea and then replicate it in their own works.

I propose that music appreciation is an evolutionary side-effect of higher intelligence and that it has "progressed" through cultural evolution.


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Replies to this message:
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Lokins
Junior Member (Idle past 3375 days)
Posts: 23
From: Montreal, Quebec, Canada
Joined: 05-28-2009


Message 8 of 28 (510524)
06-01-2009 1:27 AM
Reply to: Message 7 by AustinG
05-31-2009 11:38 PM


Re: Sexual Selection?
RAZD writes:

Consider that intelligence could be a side-effect of sexual selection for creativity in mating displays, dances and songs - and again compare the attractiveness of people to their apparent intelligence.

My psychology teacher (an avid evolutionary psychologist) also made this theory, and I find it very intriguing. When we students proposed the theory that we evolved intelligence because it helped us make tools, hunting strategies, etc., therefore increasing our chance of reproduction, he said this: "It doesn't take rocket scientists to make stone tools. We're rocket scientists."

AustinG writes:

This is a good thought; however it can lead to a chicken/egg argument. The opposite sex would first have to appreciate music before it would be beneficial as a mating ritual. You probably didn't mean it this, but I thought I would bring up the point.

That was the main problem I had with that theory, although it does make sense. You put it very eloquently, AustinG.

AustinG writes:

Does music appreciation have to be beneficial? It could be simply a nuetral trait that exists because nothing selected against it.

Wouldn't it have to have evolved for some reason, though? Come from somewhere?

AustinG writes:

If you want to theorize that music appreciation is beneficial in some way, you must start primitive...lets say with simple sounds. Are there sounds that a hunter-gatherer would benifit by being attracted to? The call of a mammoth? The sound of a deer? The coo of fowl? The symphony of a free-flowing streem? I think its reasonable to say an attraction to these noises would be beneficial to early humans. This is all that is needed for music; once early humans were able to construct primitive instruments, they could replicate the sounds they heard in nature.

Absolutely fascinating. Thank you for this, AustinG.


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AustinG
Member (Idle past 3452 days)
Posts: 36
Joined: 04-06-2009


Message 9 of 28 (510527)
06-01-2009 2:48 AM
Reply to: Message 8 by Lokins
06-01-2009 1:27 AM


Re: Sexual Selection?
Lokins writes:

Wouldn't it have to have evolved for some reason, though? Come from somewhere?

Yes and no. Individual organisms do NOT evolve; they mutate. Populations evolve. When and organism mutates, its mutation is blind--it has no purpose and no intentions. However, populations evolve as the newly mutated trait is passed down over generations. A population with a trait that negatively effects breeding/reproduction will eventually be weeded out, and the population with a trait that positively effects their chance to breed will become more numbersom; nuetral traits have no effect. Music appreciation could simply be a nuetral side-effect to higher intelligence--a positive trait.

I actually believe music is beneficial; I'm just pointing out that it doesn't have to be.


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caffeine
Member
Posts: 1702
From: Prague, Czech Republic
Joined: 10-22-2008
Member Rating: 2.9


Message 10 of 28 (510533)
06-01-2009 4:44 AM
Reply to: Message 8 by Lokins
06-01-2009 1:27 AM


Re: Sexual Selection?
Wouldn't it have to have evolved for some reason, though? Come from somewhere?

I recently read an article discussin musical appreciation in animals. Researchers looked through a bunch of videos of dancing animals, and checked which ones actually moved rythmically in time with the music playing. Those which did (if I'm remembering this right) were parrots and elephants.

Both parrots and elephants (as well as humans) can recognise and mimic a wide variety of sounds which they use in communication. The researchers' speculation was that musical appreciation is just a side-effect of whatever mental structures are necessary for an animal to learn to mimic sounds and use complex vocal communication.

Edit: Here's the BBC article I read. This seems to be the original journal article for anyone with access.

Edited by caffeine, : Added links


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Larni
Member
Posts: 3990
From: Liverpool
Joined: 09-16-2005


Message 11 of 28 (510551)
06-01-2009 10:41 AM
Reply to: Message 1 by Lokins
05-31-2009 1:32 AM


These findings suggest that music will enhance activity of the parasympathetic nervous system. When catecholamines (stress hormones) levels are lowered and we are not in an emergency phase we feel more relaxed.

http://www.jstage.jst.go.jp/article/ihj/50/1/50_95/_article

This effect could be connected with the repetative behaviour we engage in when we are anxious (such as pacing or tapping our foot). This helps relax us.

Music could simply be a complex learnt behaviour that we have discoved calms us down.

As an alternative to thses findings:

LF/HF, considered to be an indication of sympathetic nerve activity increased significantly during listening to hard rock music.

http://sciencelinks.jp/j-east/article/200522/000020052205A0937639.php

Indicating that some music can have the opposite effect. One could suppose that the beat of the music interacts with your nervous system in a complementary way; calming you down or psyching you up.

Veiwing this as a tool (and thinking about how good people are at using more and more sophisticated tools) we could suggest that music has evolved to act as a tool for mood modification.


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Perdition
Member (Idle past 1521 days)
Posts: 1593
From: Wisconsin
Joined: 05-15-2003


Message 12 of 28 (510580)
06-01-2009 3:37 PM
Reply to: Message 1 by Lokins
05-31-2009 1:32 AM


Patterns
Humans are a pattern-seeking species. This is obvious in the way people "see" faces and objects in clouds, tortilla chips and the tops of tomato sauce cans.

Music, at it's most basic, is an auditory pattern. Both visual and auditory pattern recognition would be very advantageous to hunter/gatherers and to people living on a savanah or being hunted by other carnivores.

I can see how learning to be attracted to patterns, if only so we can determine if it's threat, friend, or nothing, could lead us to appreciate and even mimic patterns. The more complex a pattern is, the more talented that person is, and voila, we have an artist.


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Lokins
Junior Member (Idle past 3375 days)
Posts: 23
From: Montreal, Quebec, Canada
Joined: 05-28-2009


Message 13 of 28 (510583)
06-01-2009 3:46 PM
Reply to: Message 12 by Perdition
06-01-2009 3:37 PM


Re: Patterns
Very interesting, Perdition. I don't think that's exclusive to what AustinG was saying, either.

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Dr Adequate
Member
Posts: 16107
Joined: 07-20-2006
Member Rating: 8.0


Message 14 of 28 (510642)
06-02-2009 2:19 AM
Reply to: Message 5 by Lokins
05-31-2009 11:46 AM


Re: Sexual Selection?
But still, why have we evolved to be attracted to music, and draw pleasure from it?

Well, we needn't have done so as such.

I can appreciate someone juggling chainsaws, although there was no specific evolutionary pressure that brought us to this point.

Music might have originated as a form of showing off: it demonstrates certain skills of concentration, memory, co-ordination, etc, and does so with minimal physical effort or risk of injury. Certainly I prefer it to butting my antlers against those of another male.

Alternatively, musical appreciation may have begun as a neurological accident that smart people learned to exploit. By analogy, our brains did not evolve in order that opiates should give us pleasure, but heroin dealers have "evolved" --- in the social sense --- to fill that particular economic niche.


This message is a reply to:
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Lokins
Junior Member (Idle past 3375 days)
Posts: 23
From: Montreal, Quebec, Canada
Joined: 05-28-2009


Message 15 of 28 (511942)
06-12-2009 11:34 PM


Dawkins
Hey guys,

If you're interested, I just found a video on youtube that directly addresses the question I've asked. It's an interview between Richard Dawkins and Steven Pinker, an evolutionary psychologist:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yIMReUsxTt4

The entire video is about an hour long, but they talk about music within the first 10 minutes. Enjoy!


    
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