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Females prefer less complex music and males prefer more complex music: Support that music may function as a signal of fitness in sexual selection
Umeå University, Faculty of Social Sciences, Department of Psychology.ORCID iD: 0000-0001-5366-1169
2018 (English)Conference paper, Poster (with or without abstract) (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

Music is a human universal, suggesting a biological adaptation. Charles Darwin suggested that music has evolved as a human trait through sexual selection. According to such a scenario, intra-sex competition may use any dimension that provides an honest signal of fitness. Previous research indicates that cognitive ability is an important such dimension, which is likely to manifest itself in music in terms of complexity. Parental investment theory further predicts asymmetries between the sexes. While the ability to perceive and evaluate the signal must be equal, the interest in the signal, and the motivation for engaging in signalling, is stronger for males than for females, as well-documented in song birds. Here, we examine this prediction for listening data from LastFM, an international music streaming service. From a database with ~20 million listening events by 992 listeners, we first selected the 1,000 songs most frequently listened to. Out of these, 42 songs that were listened to by about equal numbers of males and females were rated on complexity by an expert panel (with both males and females). The mean complexity rating of each song was correlated with the number of times it was listened to by each user. The correlations were 0.50 for males and -0.61 for females, showing that males tend to listen more to the more complex songs, and females more to the less complex songs. This is consistent with the prediction that males are more interested and motivated to engage in complex musical structure than are females, and hence with the hypothesis that a function of music is to signal fitness in sexual selection.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2018.
National Category
Psychology
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:umu:diva-166767OAI: oai:DiVA.org:umu-166767DiVA, id: diva2:1381790
Conference
Human Behavior and Evolution Society (HBES) conference, Amsterdam, The Netherlands, July 4–7, 2018
Note

Poster 99

Available from: 2019-12-27 Created: 2019-12-27 Last updated: 2020-01-03Bibliographically approved

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Madison, Guy

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CiteExportLink to record
Permanent link

Direct link
Cite
Citation style
  • apa
  • ieee
  • modern-language-association-8th-edition
  • vancouver
  • Other style
More styles
Language
  • de-DE
  • en-GB
  • en-US
  • fi-FI
  • nn-NO
  • nn-NB
  • sv-SE
  • Other locale
More languages
Output format
  • html
  • text
  • asciidoc
  • rtf