Scientists seem to have confirmed what anyone with half an ounce of taste has known for a long time - techno music is to be avoided at all costs. A report, in Seed Magazine, reveals how monkeys shun the dire, monotonous drone of electronic music for more soothing sounds, such as lullabies.
The study's authors, Josh McDermott, a perceptual scientist at MIT, and Harvard evolutionary psychologist Marc D. Hauser, had found in earlier tests that tamarin and marmoset monkeys can tell the difference between different types of music. They took this a step further and tested which music they preferred. By building a maze with two navigable paths and two speakers at either end, they were able to test which type of music attracted monkeys. Given a choice betwen a lullaby and silence, the monkeys headed down the maze that led to the silent speaker. Given the choice between a lullaby and German techno music, however, they chose the quieter tones of the lullaby. "The continuity of the melody of a lullaby is something that is designed to calm," Hauser said. He also suggested the monkeys' choice of slower tempos might be tied to "ancient evolutionary roots". The pair's results are to be published soon in the journal Cognition.
This isn't the first time animals' musical tastes have been observed. In a less scientific environment, for instance, farmers have discovered that cows produce more milk to Beethoven than they do to pop music. Playing the 80s band Bananarama actually reduces their productivity.
Another scientist, however, is cautioning against getting too carried away about music-loving creatures. "These experiments clarify that the animals can in fact show preferences in response to music," says Erin Hannon, a psychologist and expert in music perception at Harvard. "Yet, it also shows that these animals just aren't generally very interested in music."