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TU / Psychology / PSY 0080 / Are humans the only animals who have music?

Are humans the only animals who have music?

Are humans the only animals who have music?


PSY-0080 Midterm Review Sheet 

Are humans the only animals who have music?


• Humans are the only primates that are musical; other animals don't have music  • Music involves much of the brain, not just hearing centers (the lateral sulcus, temporal lobe, primary auditory cortex), such as the amygdala, etc; uses more brain than language! • Definition of music: “Creative play with sound: sound meets human imagination” - Brandt,  “Floating intentionality” - Cross, and intention to perceive sound as music. • Unlike birdsong, human music isn't about survival.

• Human music seems natural to us, but it's species-specific (other animals may not enjoy). • Darwin: music is universal, ancient, powerful; activates brain reward centers: nucleus  accumbens, ventral tegmental area. Infants seem to have an instinctive response to music. • Singing species: e.g. birds sing for sexual selection, attract mates, defend territory – may  explain link to emotion! To charm, warn, or scare away others.

What part of your brain controls your hearing?

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• Adaptationist Theory: babies' innate response to music suggest it was evolutionary. • Evolution Theory: music and emotional speech share acoustic cues (e.g. happy VS sad). • Reproductive Theories: humans had sexual selection, therefore sexually dimorphic larynxes  (males have disproportionately deeper voices than they are large/tall). Human music may  have begun with the intention to attract the opposite sex.

◦ Cross-species test: monkeys dislike human music but respond better to “music” from  their own monkey vocalizations (more affiliative behaviors, less anxious behaviors).  • Social Theories of Survival: 1) Training coordinated movements: to form group cohesion,  e.g. in rituals and ceremonies. 2) Promoting emotional conjoinment: between parents and  offspring, affiliative interactions through vocalizations, parents who vocalize to children have  better bonds and children survive. 3) Enhance cognitive and social skill: music may have  motivated infant to be more attentive and more active, hence develop better and faster.  4) Affective engagement: music affects us emotionally, therefore develop theory of mind,  understand other emotionally, more sensitive to others' emotions.  

Does the theory about songbirds apply to human?

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• Social Bonding Theory: features of music designed to promote joint action (e.g. rhythm,  repetition), often involves sharing actions and emotional states. = Promote social bonds?Don't forget about the age old question of What is the main function of logarithm?

◦ Research: children played musical (synchrony) / non-musical (no synchrony) game in  pairs, then helping and cooperation test. More cooperation and helping in musical game. ▪ Why? Moving in sync blurs the mental line between self and others for the brain. • Invention Theory: music not shaped by evolution, but is pleasure technology (Pinker).  Music involves language, auditory scene analysis, emotional sounds, environment sounds etc. • Music is mental construct: arises in brain, not the ear.  If you want to learn more check out What are the four levels of protein structure?

• Cognition: perceive frequency-shifted (pitch-shifted) melodies as similar (transposition =  similar pattern of intervals even if absolute pitches are different, same relative pitch) • Who can recognize melodies on relative pitch? Songbirds can learn human melodies and  starlings can recognize pitch-shifted birdsong.  

• Humans uniquely gravitate to relative pitch because: need to recognize pitch contours in  language, and male/female voices are an octave apart so different pitches. May have evolved  with language 100,000+ years ago.

• Gene-culture coevolution: cultural practices lead to lasting biological changes. Maybe music  promoted better group relations and ensured survival; hence musicality was passed down. ◦ Test for Group Music-Making Abilities: do we have biological specialization? Yes: 1) Ability to regulate vocal pitch in relation to others producing pitch patterns simultaneously. 2) Ability to synchronize rhythmic movements with others in a group. 3) Ability to remember  and recall long sequences of words. (All 3 are not needed for language!) ▪ Re: 1) Regulate pitch: can other music-less animals do it? e.g. dogs, some howl with stable pitches to music.  If you want to learn more check out Who is the first president of the philippines?


• Cognition and emotion are interactive (unlike Descartes's theory), can be “objectively”  measured through behavioral, physiological, neural.  

• Cognition-Emotion example: “Mozart Effect” reiterates old finding that better mood  (induced by pleasant music) improves performance on the short-term.  • Musical training: different from passive listening, trains sensory, motor systems, habits of  the mind.  We also discuss several other topics like What are the three parts of parties?

• Emotions expressed by music ≠ emotions experienced by listener.

• Music expresses complex emotions, which can be manipulated through individual features  such as tempo or mode (Hevner’s adjective circle).

• Discrete (fixed boxes) VS Dimensional (circumplex model of affect) theories of emotion. • Recognizing emotions in unfamiliar music: judge based on musical structure (e.g. pitch  intervals, note durations) and performance expression (i.e. how the music is played,  expressive timing, accentuation). Computer MIDI and human players sound very different!

◦ Musical structure and performance express emotion is not just past associations, but  may be contour theory: structural resemblance between music and features of human  behavior that indicate emotion (e.g. pugs and weeping willows look “sad”).

◦ Acoustic cues shared with emotional speech, since people are good at recognizing  emotions in voices (experience and biological preparation).

• Cross-Modal Patterns of Acoustic Cues for Discrete Emotions


Acoustic Cues (Vocal Expression/Music Performance)


Fast speed, high intensity or loudness, much variability, much high frequency energy, rising contour, irregular


Fast speed, low intensity or loudness, much variability, little high frequency energy, irregular


Fast tempo, medium high intensity or loudness, not much variation, medium high freq. energy, F0 pitch variability, rising contour, very little regularity


Slow speed, low intensity or loudness, little variability, little high freq. energy, little variability, falling contour, irregular


Slow speed, low intensity or loudness, little variability, little high freq. energy, little variability, falling contour, regular

• Emotional Voice Theory: musical training increases sensitivity to vocal emotions, kids who  took keyboard or drama lessons did better than kids with no lessons for Anger VS Fear, but  no effect for Happy VS Sad (ceiling effect) (Thompson et. al.).

◦ Emotional expression not just from voice, but tempo / melody complexity / dynamics /  contour / rhythm / consonance or dissonance / timbre / key, etc.

• Inferring Emotion from Foreign Music: some things are culture-specific, others are culture general, e.g. psychophysical cues.

◦ Cue Redundancy Model: Balkwill & Thompson: For cultural outsiders, psychophysical cues are useful (any property of sound that can be perceive independent of knowledge /

experience / enculturation (e.g. rhythmic or melodic complexity, intensity, tempo, contour)  and allows them to pick up emotions. For cultural insiders, these are redundant with culture specific cues (e.g. instrumentation, idiomatic melodies).

◦ Support: Cross-cultural Emotion Perception: Western listeners were able to judge basic  emotions from “ragas” from North India.  

• Studying music and emotion in sterile lab settings may not be ecologically valid, emotions  expressed varies by context and culture (emotions depend on music, person, situation, etc.). ◦ In labs, basic emotions are perceived consistently esp. when discrete/basic emotions are tested. Consistency decreases if choices less constrained & music more complex.  ◦ Discrete/Dimensional theories of emotion may lead to different ways to measure  emotions expressed by music.  

◦ Cross culturally there is some agreement on basic categories, but much room /  variability for culture-specific effects – music is not “universal language”.  • Emotions evoked by: interaction between listener’s state, context, cultural knowledge,  musical structure, how it is performed.

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