Wednesday, 29 July 2009

manipulative cats and music-loving chimps

You might have seen the stories about this a couple of weeks ago... Scientific American and a few other news venues reported on research telling us what most cat owners already know: that cats manipulate us with their purrs and their meows. Here's two SA podcast transcripts on the subject:

This other tidbit is newer - research involving a young chimp suggests we may be biologically inclined to prefer consonance over dissonance in musical sounds. The chimp repeatedly chose to listen to consonant passages in preference to dissonance, and because of her lack of previous exposure to music, researchers feel this demonstrates that musical taste is not a uniquely human trait. It's not universal though - related tests with birds and monkeys have shown their ability to differentiate between consonance and dissonance, but no preference one way or the other.

The article mentions finding similar preferences to the chimp's in human babies - many years ago I unintentionally discovered babies' discriminating musical ears... I was trying to distract a crying baby by playing guitar and singing to her but I was on edge (she had powerful lungs) and though the music seemed to help, if I hit a sour note she just wailed all the louder. No surprise that she's gone on to be a musician herself (and producing much fewer sour notes than me).

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