Chimpanzees prefer listening to African, Indian tunes over strong beats of Western music, researchers claim.
Study co-author Frans de Waal, PhD, of Emory University, said their objective was not to find a preference for different cultures' music and that they used cultural music from Africa, India and Japan to pinpoint specific acoustic properties.
When African and Indian music was played near their large outdoor enclosures, the chimps spent significantly more time in areas where they could best hear the music.
When Japanese music was played, they were more likely to be found in spots where it was more difficult or impossible to hear the music. The African and Indian music in the experiment had extreme ratios of strong to weak beats, whereas 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 in two groups participated in the experiment at the Yerkes National Primate Research Center at Emory University. Over 12 consecutive days for 40 minutes each morning, the groups were given the opportunity to listen to African, Indian or Japanese music playing on a portable stereo near their outdoor enclosure. Another portable stereo not playing any music was located at a different spot near the enclosure to rule out behavior that might be associated with an object rather than the music. The different types of music were at the same volume but played in random order. Each day, researchers observed the chimps and recorded their location every two minutes with handwritten notes. They also videotaped the activity in the enclosure.
The chimps' behavior when the music was played was compared to their behavior with no music.
The study has been published in APA's Journal of Experimental Psychology: Animal Learning and Cognition.