Thursday, October 26, 2017

Musical improvisation skill makes men more attractive as mates. Implications for the origin of music

Musical improvisation skill in a prospective partner is associated with mate value and preferences, consistent with sexual selection and parental investment theory: Implications for the origin of music. Guy Madison, Jakob Holmquist, Mattias Vestin. Evolution and Human Behavior.

Abstract: Music is a human universal, which suggests a biological adaptation. Several evolutionary explanations have been proposed, covering the entire spectrum of natural, sexual, and group selection. Here we consider the hypothesis that musical behaviour constitutes a reliable or even costly signal of fitness, and thus may have evolved as a human trait through sexual selection. We experimentally tested how musical performance quality (MPQ), in improvisations on the drums, saxophone, and violin, affects mate values and mate preferences perceived by a prospective partner. Swedish student participants (27 of each sex) saw a face of a person of the opposite sex and heard a piece of improvised music being played. The music occurred in three levels of MPQ and the faces in three levels of facial attractiveness (FA). For each parametric combination of MPG and FA, the participants rated four mate value scales (intelligence, health, social status, and parenting skill) and four mate preference scales (date, intercourse, and short- and long term relationship). Consistent with sexual selection theory, mate value ratings were generally increased by MPQ for raters of both sexes. Consistent with more specific hypotheses that follow from combining sexual selection and parental investment theory, women’s but not men’s preference for a long-term, but not short-term, relationship was significantly increased by MPQ, MPQ generally affected women’s ratings more than men’s, FA generally affected men’s ratings more than women’s, and women’s ratings of intelligence were even more influenced by MPQ than by FA.

Keywords: music; evolution; sexual selection; costly signalling; parental investment theory; fitness display; mate value; mate preference; music performance; skill; mating; adaptation; selection pressure

---Posted to a Facebook forum, a comment to this abstract was (

Z S: did I ever mention evolutionary psychology is dominated by male researchers? :D just saying

I wrote to one of the authors asking for a reply. Stay tuned.

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