Why do humans make music? Theories of the evolution of musicality have focused mainly on the value of music for specific adaptive contexts such as mate selection, parental care, coalition signaling, and group cohesion. Synthesizing and extending previous proposals, we argue that social bonding is an overarching function that unifies all of these theories, and that musicality enabled social bonding at larger scales than grooming and other bonding mechanisms available in ancestral primate societies. We combine cross-disciplinary evidence from archeology, anthropology, (...) biology, musicology, psychology, and neuroscience into a unified framework that accounts for the biological and cultural evolution of music. We argue that the evolution of musicality involves gene–culture coevolution, through which proto-musical behaviors that initially arose and spread as cultural inventions had feedback effects on biological evolution because of their impact on social bonding. We emphasize the deep links between production, perception, prediction, and social reward arising from repetition, synchronization, and harmonization of rhythms and pitches, and summarize empirical evidence for these links at the levels of brain networks, physiological mechanisms, and behaviors across cultures and across species. Finally, we address potential criticisms and make testable predictions for future research, including neurobiological bases of musicality and relationships between human music, language, animal song, and other domains. The music and social bonding hypothesis provides the most comprehensive theory to date of the biological and cultural evolution of music. (shrink)
Music can reduce stress and anxiety, enhance positive mood, and facilitate social bonding. However, little is known about the role of music and related personal or cultural variables in maintaining wellbeing during times of stress and social isolation as imposed by the COVID-19 crisis. In an online questionnaire, administered in 11 countries, participants rated the relevance of wellbeing goals during the pandemic, and the effectiveness of different activities in obtaining these goals. Music was found to be the most effective activity (...) for three out of five wellbeing goals: enjoyment, venting negative emotions, and self-connection. For diversion, music was equally good as entertainment, while it was second best to create a sense of togetherness, after socialization. This result was evident across different countries and gender, with minor effects of age on specific goals, and a clear effect of the importance of music in people's lives. Cultural effects were generally small and surfaced mainly in the use of music to obtain a sense of togetherness. Interestingly, culture moderated the use of negatively valenced and nostalgic music for those higher in distress. (shrink)
Much of what we know and love about music is based on implicitly acquired mental representations of musical pitches and the relationships between them. While previous studies have shown that these mental representations of music can be acquired rapidly and can influence preference, it is still unclear which aspects of music influence learning and preference formation. This article reports two experiments that use an artificial musical system to examine two questions: (1) which aspects of music matter most for learning, and (...) (2) which aspects of music matter most for preference formation. Two aspects of music are tested: melody and harmony. In Experiment 1 we tested the learning and liking of a new musical system that is manipulated melodically so that only some of the possible conditional probabilities between successive notes are presented. In Experiment 2 we administered the same tests for learning and liking, but we used a musical system that is manipulated harmonically to eliminate the property of harmonic whole-integer ratios between pitches. Results show that disrupting melody (Experiment 1) disabled the learning of music without disrupting preference formation, whereas disrupting harmony (Experiment 2) does not affect learning and memory but disrupts preference formation. Results point to a possible dissociation between learning and preference in musical knowledge. (shrink)
We argue that music can serve as a time-sensitive lens into the interplay between instrumental and ritual stances in cultural evolution. Over various timescales, music can switch between pursuing an end goal or not, and between presenting a causal opacity that is resolvable, or not. With these fluctuations come changes in the motivational structures that drive innovation versus copying.
We compare and contrast the 60 commentaries by 109 authors on the pair of target articles by Mehr et al. and ourselves. The commentators largely reject Mehr et al.'s fundamental definition of music and their attempts to refute our social bonding hypothesis, byproduct hypotheses, and sexual selection hypotheses for the evolution of musicality. Instead, the commentators generally support our more inclusive proposal that social bonding and credible signaling mechanisms complement one another in explaining cooperation within and competition between groups in (...) a coevolutionary framework. We discuss the proposed criticisms and extensions, with a focus on moving beyond adaptation/byproduct dichotomies and toward testing of cross-species, cross-cultural, and other empirical predictions. (shrink)
Music-based interventions (MBI) have become increasingly widely adopted for dementia and related disorders. Previous research shows that music engages reward-related regions through functional connectivity with the auditory system, but evidence for the effectiveness of MBI is mixed in older adults with mild cognitive impairment (MCI) and Alzheimer’s disease (AD). This underscores the need for a unified mechanistic understanding to motivate MBIs. The main objective of the present study is to characterize the intrinsic connectivity of the auditory and reward systems in (...) healthy aging individuals with MCI, and those with AD. Using resting-state fMRI data from the Alzheimer’s Database Neuroimaging Initiative, we tested resting-state functional connectivity within and between auditory and reward systems in older adults with MCI, AD, and age-matched healthy controls (N = 105). Seed-based correlations were assessed from regions of interest (ROIs) in the auditory network (i.e., anterior superior temporal gyrus, posterior superior temporal gyrus, Heschl’s Gyrus), and the reward network (i.e., nucleus accumbens, caudate, putamen, and orbitofrontal cortex). AD individuals were lower in both within-network and between-network functional connectivity in the auditory network and reward networks compared to MCI and controls. Furthermore, graph theory analyses showed that the MCI group had higher clustering and local efficiency than both AD and control groups, whereas AD individuals had lo... (shrink)