New research suggests chimpanzees prefer listening to music with Indian and African beats over Western music.
The researchers found the chimps actually preferred silence over Western music, an American Psychological Association news release reported.
"Our objective was not to find a preference for different cultures' music. We used cultural music from Africa, India and Japan to pinpoint specific acoustic properties," study coauthor Frans de Waal, PhD, of Emory University. "Past research has focused only on Western music and has not addressed the very different acoustic features of non-Western music. While nonhuman primates have previously indicated a preference among music choices, they have consistently chosen silence over the types of music previously tested."
Past studies have found that some non-human primates prefer slower tempos, but this new research suggests prefer particular rhythmic patterns.
"Although Western music, such as pop, blues and classical, sound different to the casual listener, they all follow the same musical and acoustic patterns. Therefore, by testing only different Western music, previous research has essentially replicated itself," the authors wrote, the news release reported.
When African and Indian music was played near the large chimp enclosure the chimps spent the most time in an area where they could hear the music. When they were played Japanese music the chimps were more likely to be in an area where they could not hear the music. The Indian and African music had extreme ratios of weak and strong beats while the Japanese music had regular strong beats, which is also typical of Western music.
"Chimpanzees may perceive the strong, predictable rhythmic patterns as threatening, as chimpanzee dominance displays commonly incorporate repeated rhythmic sounds such as stomping, clapping and banging objects," de Waal said.
Sixteen adult chimps participated in the experiment over the course of 12 days for 40 minutes each morning.
"Chimpanzees displaying a preference for music over silence is compelling evidence that our shared evolutionary histories may include favoring sounds outside of both humans' and chimpanzees' immediate survival cues," lead author Morgan Mingle, BA, of Emory and Southwestern University in Austin, said in the news release. "Our study highlights the importance of sampling across the gamut of human music to potentially identify features that could have a shared evolutionary root."