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Chaos & Complex Systems Seminar
Emotional Communication in Primates: Music to Their Ears?
Date: Tuesday, March 23rd
Time: 12:05 pm
Place: 4274 Chamberlin Hall
Speaker: Chuck Snowdon, UW-Madison, Dept. of Psychology
Abstract: Vocal communication in nonhuman animals is thought to communicate the emotional state of the caller and provide information about the caller's behavior. An alternative view is that animal signals induce emotional states in listeners. In support of this alternative are the prosodic features of speech that humans use to communicate with infants ("parentese") or their animals ("doggeral"). Building on this idea, my collaborator, David Teie, a musician and composer and I have hypothesized that music evolved from emotional communication and is a powerful means to communicate emotions. We have hypothesized several acoustic features that are emotional universals and have tested these using music-naive cotton-top tamarins. Since tamarins communicate with higher pitch and faster tempo than humans, we also hypothesized that they would be indifferent to human based music, but would instead respond emotionally to music composed at their frequency range and tempo. Tamarins did show appropriate emotional responses to music composed for them by David Teie and were generally unresponsive to human music. The results have several implications: emotional aspects of music may have a long evolutionary history, animal vocalizations may serve to induce emotional contagion in listeners and, although musical aspects of emotions follow universal principles they actual music tested must be appropriate to the vocal range and tempo of the species tested.

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