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Music as a coevolved system for social bonding

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  20 August 2020

Patrick E. Savage
Affiliation:
Faculty of Environment and Information Studies, Keio University, Fujisawa252-0882, Japanpsavage@sfc.keio.ac.jp; http://PatrickESavage.com
Psyche Loui
Affiliation:
College of Arts, Media and Design, Northeastern University, Boston, MA02115, USAp.loui@northeastern.edu; http://www.psycheloui.com
Bronwyn Tarr
Affiliation:
Institute of Cognitive and Evolutionary Anthropology & Department of Experimental Psychology, University of Oxford, OxfordOX2 6PN, UKbronwyn.tarr@anthro.ox.ac.uk; bronwyntarr01@gmail.comhttps://www.anthro.ox.ac.uk/people/dr-bronwyn-tarr
Adena Schachner
Affiliation:
Department of Psychology, University of California San Diego, La Jolla, CA92093, USA; schachner@ucsd.edu; https://madlab.ucsd.edu
Luke Glowacki
Affiliation:
Department of Anthropology, Boston University, Boston, MA02215, USAglowacki@fas.harvard.edu; https://www.hsb-lab.org/
Steven Mithen
Affiliation:
Department of Archaeology, University of Reading, ReadingRG6 6AB, UKs.j.mithen@reading.ac.uk; http://www.reading.ac.uk/archaeology/about/staff/s-j-mithen.aspx
W. Tecumseh Fitch
Affiliation:
Department of Behavioral and Cognitive Biology, University of Vienna, Vienna1090, Austria. tecumseh.fitch@univie.ac.at; https://homepage.univie.ac.at/tecumseh.fitch/

Abstract

Why do humans make music? Theories of the evolution of musicality have focused mainly on the value of music for specific adaptive contexts such as mate selection, parental care, coalition signaling, and group cohesion. Synthesizing and extending previous proposals, we argue that social bonding is an overarching function that unifies all of these theories, and that musicality enabled social bonding at larger scales than grooming and other bonding mechanisms available in ancestral primate societies. We combine cross-disciplinary evidence from archeology, anthropology, biology, musicology, psychology, and neuroscience into a unified framework that accounts for the biological and cultural evolution of music. We argue that the evolution of musicality involves gene–culture coevolution, through which proto-musical behaviors that initially arose and spread as cultural inventions had feedback effects on biological evolution because of their impact on social bonding. We emphasize the deep links between production, perception, prediction, and social reward arising from repetition, synchronization, and harmonization of rhythms and pitches, and summarize empirical evidence for these links at the levels of brain networks, physiological mechanisms, and behaviors across cultures and across species. Finally, we address potential criticisms and make testable predictions for future research, including neurobiological bases of musicality and relationships between human music, language, animal song, and other domains. The music and social bonding hypothesis provides the most comprehensive theory to date of the biological and cultural evolution of music.

Type
Target Article
Copyright
Copyright © The Author(s), 2020. Published by Cambridge University Press

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Footnotes

We are delighted to present an unusual BBS publication. In early 2018, we received a double submission: two papers exploring the same topic from different perspectives – “Origins of Music in Credible Signaling,” by Samuel A. Mehr, Max M. Krasnow, Gregory A. Bryant, and Edward H. Hagen; and “Music as a Co-evolved System for Social Bonding,” by Patrick E. Savage, Psyche Loui, Bronwyn Tarr, Adena Schachner, Luke Glowacki, Steven Mithen, and W. Tecumseh Fitch. Each paper was reviewed in parallel, but independently, and both ultimately accepted. Our intention was to encourage consideration of how complex subjects like music might be investigated in different ways, integrating the perspectives of different laboratories and multiple commentators.

Thus, invited commentators might respond to the Mehr et al. article, the Savage et al. article, or both. Most chose both, as hoped. Unlike the usual BBS article presentation, the two target articles, two commentary groups and responses are interleaved. Follow the links above to find the companion target article and for the index of commentaries and responses. – The Editors

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