Love of music is learnt, like any other skill
Sydney, Feb 15 : Our love of music is learnt just like any other skill, and neither inherited nor based on innate natural ability, says a new study from the University of Melbourne.
Neil McLachlan, associate professor at the Melbourne School of Psychological Sciences, said previous theories about how we appreciate music were based on the physical properties of sound, the ear itself and an innate ability to hear harmony.
"Our study shows that musical harmony can be learnt and it is a matter of training the brain to hear the sounds. So, if you thought that the music of some exotic culture (or Jazz) sounded like the wailing of cats, it's simply because you haven't learnt to listen by their rules," said McLachlan.
The researchers used 66 volunteers with a range of musical training and tested their ability to hear combinations of notes to determine if they found the combinations familiar or pleasing, the Journal of Experimental Psychology: General reports.
"What we found was that people needed to be familiar with sounds created by combinations of notes before they could hear the individual notes. If they couldn't find the notes they found the sound dissonant or unpleasant," he said, according to a Melbourne statement.
"This finding overturns centuries of theories that physical properties of the ear determine what we find appealing," said McLachlan.
His counterpart Sarah Wilson, associate professor and study co-author at Melbourne, said the study found that trained musicians were much more sensitive to dissonance than non-musicians.
"When they couldn't find the note, the musicians reported that the sounds were unpleasant, whereas non-musicians were much less sensitive," Wilson said.