Musicians are more desirable dates for both men and women, supporting Darwin’s sexual selection hypothesis

Musicians are more desirable dates for both men and women, supporting Darwin’s sexual selection hypothesis

Musicians are more desirable dates for both men and women, supporting Darwin’s sexual selection hypothesis

A new experimental study in Austria found that portraying a man as a music performer significantly increased his desirability as a date and his appeal to women. Introducing a woman as a music performer increased her desire to date men. The study was published in Frontiers in Psychology.

Scientists have long wondered about the origin and social function of music. On the one hand, music is a universal phenomenon found in cultures around the world. On the other hand, musical behavior has no immediate survival value and therefore it is not known how it evolved and spread in human populations.

A theoretical approach suggests that the study of the social role of music should begin by differentiating between musicality“the set of abilities and inclinations that enable our species to generate and enjoy music in all its diverse forms”, and music, “the product of human musicality”.

The evolution of musicality can possibly be explained using Darwin’s sexual selection hypothesis. This hypothesis states that certain traits could evolve and become established if they allow the individual with those traits to be more successful in obtaining mates and thus creating offspring that will inherit the advantageous trait.

“There are many theories about the origins of human musicality, and at the moment researchers can’t agree on one theory, and sometimes there’s – for my taste – too much speculation involved,” said the author of the study Manuela M. Marin, musical psychologist. , researcher and lecturer affiliated with the University of Vienna. “So I thought it might be useful to contribute to this debate by providing some empirical data.”

“However, it is a difficult task to develop experiments to test theories about the origins of musicality. I am generally interested in how music influences visual perception. Therefore, I thought it might be a good idea to study how musicality affects face perception and love behavior in the context of Darwin’s sexual selection hypothesis.

“Material choice and romantic behavior are determined by a wide range of factors. The human face is an important biological and social cue in any dating scenario. Musicality may be another relevant cue as researchers have proposed that musicality either a signal of intelligence and improvement of motor skills.

“Music is also mostly played in a social context, in which encounters usually take place. Taken together, music and dating seemed like a promising topic to study, especially since there weren’t many people working to test Darwin’s theory at the time I became interested.

To investigate the hypothesis that musicality makes an individual more attractive to potential sexual partners, researchers conducted an experiment on a sample of 35 female and 23 male heterosexual participants. The participants were mostly psychology students from Germany and Austria.

All declared to be single and the participating women had to not take hormonal contraception, not be pregnant and not breastfeeding. The two groups were matched on age, mood, the role of music in their lives, years of musical training, and taste in the piano music used in the experiment.

There were two conditions in the experiment – ​​the musical priming condition (experimental) and the silent condition (control). In the silent condition, participants were asked to rate the facial attractiveness and attendance desirability of 37 faces of average attractiveness presented in random order. Twenty of those faces were “targets” of the opposite sex, faces that really interested the researchers. The remaining 17 faces were same-sex faces used as distractors and not included in the analyses.

In the musical priming condition, participants listened to different musical snippets of various characteristics, each lasting 25 seconds and randomly paired with the same 20 opposite-sex faces used in the control condition. Each of these faces was presented 4 times accompanied by musical extracts to the participants. Target faces were interspersed with 17 same-sex distractors (which were not analyzed).

Participants were told that the musical excerpt they were listening to was played by the person whose face they were asked to rate. The experiment was conducted separately for males and females – males saw female “target” faces and females saw male faces as “targets”.

The results showed that the women rated the target faces as significantly more attractive after listening to music that was supposed to be played by those people. Attractiveness ratings were higher regardless of the arousing or agreeable qualities of the music associated with the face (which the target was allegedly playing). The difference in encounter desirability was even more pronounced – after learning that the faces presented to them belonged to people playing music, they judged them to be much more desirable for encounters than in the control condition.

Men rated target faces in the musical condition as more desirable for dating, but assigning music to target faces did not affect their attractiveness ratings. Additionally, women said to a greater extent than men “that they would be willing to have a one-night stand with the most attractive person shown in the experiment.” There was no difference between male and female participants in their willingness to enter into a long-term relationship with the most attractive person shown in the experiment.

Marin noted that the results differed somewhat from a previous study, published in 2017, which examined whether listening to music influenced ratings of facial attractiveness and dating desirability.

“Our previous and current results indicated surprising differences in observed gender effects,” Marin told PsyPost. “In the previous study, music was not directly related to facial stimuli when the stimuli were presented one after the other. In this case, music only significantly influenced women when evaluating male faces. Men were not significantly affected by music.

“In the current study, we told the participants that the music was played by the person shown in the photo (thus a direct link between the music and the face was established). In the group of women, we observed a effect of music on dating attractiveness and desirability ratings. This result for the group of females is similar to that of Marin et al. (2017).”

“However, the male group in the current study also reported an increase in dating desirability after exposure to music, while facial attractiveness was unaffected,” she explained. “This result for men differs from that reported in Marin et al. (2017). »

“In summary, these results suggest that sex differences may depend on the underlying mechanism of how music affects facial perception and encounter desirability in a mating context. Better understanding these sex differences will be a challenge for future research.

The results provide three important points:

“First, more and more empirical evidence is accumulating for Darwin’s musicality hypothesis of sexual selection. This shows that old theories should not be overlooked or even abandoned in current academic debates about the origins of music unless counter evidence prevails,” Marin told PsyPost.

“Second, musicality (studied here) and having listened to music (studied in Marin et al., 2017) may influence perceived opposite-sex face attractiveness and dating desirability, primarily among Women Men seem less influenced by music when evaluating female faces.

“Third, more generally, our results obtained in the laboratory are in line with many previous studies on other social topics demonstrating that music may be able to influence the way we perceive and act on others in a social context. real,” Marin explained. .

The experiment makes an important contribution to our understanding of the psychological mechanisms associated with musicality. However, it should be noted that the experiment was conducted on a very small group of participants and that the participants were university, European and single students. Results on people of different ages and cultural backgrounds as well as studies focusing on long-term relationships might show different results.

“The experiment will have to be repeated with different musical styles (we used solo piano music) and also in a more realistic setting, maybe even outside the lab,” Marin said. “It would also be great to do a similar study in Asia or Africa to be able to see if there are any cultural differences. In the context of Darwin’s theory, we would not expect major differences regarding the overall effect of music on mate choice.

“Music is part of all human cultures,” added the researcher. “As music psychologists, we try to better understand how music affects our feelings and thoughts as well as our behavior. Our field of research is constantly growing all over the world.

The study, “Darwin’s Sexual Selection Hypothesis Revisited: Musicality Increases Sexual Attraction in Both Sexes,” was authored by Manuela M. Marin and Ines Rathgeber.

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