What kind of music do you like? You and chimpanzees might like the same genre. These animals may help explain why you have favorite songs. Like humans, they too have strong musical preferences.

Some people might like pop and some people like jazz. Part of it is cultural influence, but researchers in a new study published in the Journal of Experimental Psychology: Animal Learning and Cognition went a little deeper by studying chimpanzees to understand the evolution of musical preferences. “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,” Frans de Waal, study co-author of Emory University, said in a news release.

In the study, researchers played African, Indian, and Japanese music to chimps outdoors. They noticed that when the African and Indian music was playing, the chimps spent more time in areas where they could hear the music. On the other hand, when they listened to the Japanese music, they spent time in locations where it was very difficult to hear the music. The Japanese music was a little harsher because it had regular strong beats. Chimpanzees tend to like silence, which is why they relate more to the Indian and African music, which has a blend of strong and weak beats.

"Chimpanzee 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. Despite these findings, researchers are continuing to study how humans and chimpanzees share similar evolutionary patterns when it comes to music.

Chimpanzees are the most genetically similar to humans and are also endangered. National Geographic says chimps predominately live in Africa and gravitate towards rain forests, woodlands, and grasslands.  They are plant eaters, but they also enjoy insects. They are the only animal that uses sticks to collect their food.  

Researchers do not mention in their study if they plan on studying other animals to better comprehend musical preferences. It is unclear how the results relate to humans. “Our study highlights the importance of sampling across the gamut of human music to potentially identify features that could have a shared evolutionary root," Morgan Mingle, study author of Emory and Southwestern University in Austin said.  

Researchers are excited about their findings, but there is still a long road of research ahead to better understand how people’s musical preferences evolved.

 

Source: de Waal F et al. Experimental Psychology: Animal Learning and Cognition. 2014.