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Toward inclusive theories of the evolution of musicality

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  30 September 2021

Patrick E. Savage
Faculty of Environment and Information Studies, Keio University, Fujisawa252-0882,,
Psyche Loui
College of Arts, Media and Design, Northeastern University, Boston, MA02115,,
Bronwyn Tarr
Department of Experimental Psychology, Institute of Cognitive and Evolutionary Anthropology, University of Oxford, OxfordOX2 6PN,,,
Adena Schachner
Department of Psychology, University of California San Diego, La Jolla, CA92093,,
Luke Glowacki
Department of Anthropology, Boston University, Boston, MA02215,,
Steven Mithen
Department of Archaeology, University of Reading, ReadingRG6 6AB,,
W. Tecumseh Fitch
Department of Behavioral and Cognitive Biology, University of Vienna, Vienna1090, Austria.,


We compare and contrast the 60 commentaries by 109 authors on the pair of target articles by Mehr et al. and ourselves. The commentators largely reject Mehr et al.'s fundamental definition of music and their attempts to refute (1) our social bonding hypothesis, (2) byproduct hypotheses, and (3) sexual selection hypotheses for the evolution of musicality. Instead, the commentators generally support our more inclusive proposal that social bonding and credible signaling mechanisms complement one another in explaining cooperation within and competition between groups in a coevolutionary framework (albeit with some confusion regarding terminologies such as “byproduct” and “exaptation”). We discuss the proposed criticisms and extensions, with a focus on moving beyond adaptation/byproduct dichotomies and toward testing of cross-species, cross-cultural, and other empirical predictions.

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Copyright © The Author(s), 2021. Published by Cambridge University Press

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