Friday 10 April 2009

Art instinct?

Denis Dutton argues convincingly that we've evolved artistic preferences that are universal across diverse parts of the world.

Further evidence that Denis is correct (or at least evidence consistent with Denis's theory), today via Cognitive Daily.
A team led by Thomas Fritz visited the Mafa people and played excerpts from Western music intended to evoke one of three emotions: happiness, sadness, or fear. The listeners were pre-screened to make sure they had never been exposed to Western music. The experimenters showed the listeners images of faces expressing each of these emotions, and asked the listeners to point to the face that best represented the emotion conveyed by each excerpt.
The results? The isolated tribe could identify emotions conveyed in Western music at rates significantly different from chance: "So even people who've never been exposed to Western music can understand the intended emotion." Moreover, both Westerners and Mafa could recognize clips of each others' music that had been modified to make it dissonant.

Go over to Cognitive Daily to hear the music samples. I'm not sure that Mafa music will be making it up to the top of my playlist anytime soon.

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