What's the Latest Development?
By applying theories of evolutionary psychology, researchers are beginning to better understand why listening to music gives us such pleasure. Just as having sex and eating food stimulate reward centers in our brain (because such activities help us survive and pass on our genes), listening to music is about satisfying our desires. When we get what we want, such as food or sex, we are pleased. When we hear notes that follow patterns that make sense to us, we are similarly pleased. Psychologists note that because musical patterns vary from culture to culture, what kind of music pleases us will likewise vary.
What's the Big Idea?
Evolutionary psychologists say there may have been a time when predicting sonic patterns was essential to survival. A shrill sound on the African savanna may have been a harmless monkey or a nearby lion. "By bypassing the 'logical brain' and taking a shortcut to the primitive limbic circuits that control our emotions, the mental processing of sound could prompt a rush of adrenalin—a gut reaction—that prepares us to get out of there anyway." Such theories on music have received recent support from brain scans that show an interplay between emotion and logic circuits in the brain when we listen to a piece of music for the first time.
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