Saturday, March 23, 2013

the reason for enjoying music


The inspiration for this post comes from an interesting question on Quora.com. I am only mentioning it here to give you an idea how to think "evolutionary psychology".

Does listening to music enhance our survival?
Does it help us pass on our genes to the next generation?
Does it help in avoiding immediate threats?

The answer to all 3 questions are No!

For the humans music is a form of expression and a way to communicate. It is an art. For birds its a mating ritual. Most species on earth has evolved a sense of hearing - they can listen to sounds and take an action; but they evolved for the purpose of keeping the individual alive.

For e.g. when we walk alone through a woody forest and we hear some rumbling in the bushes our first impulse is to get startled and flee. Suppose you are thirsty and stuck in a forest and you hear a stream of flowing water, you get a bit excited and advanced to the source of sound with the hope of quenching your thirst.

But what can we conclude about how our brain works from the above two scenarios?

The brain has so many rules already wired. They are only there to keep us ticking.

This "pre-wiring" is a very ubiquitous. It is present in almost every specie living today on earth. We can explain in terms of the need for a species or an individual in a specie to survive. But what about why we enjoy music? It is currently a very popular phenomenon. But we've just established that we can't explain it in terms of survival. Then why is it popular?

Not everything can be explained with the idea of survival. Sometimes certain behavior simply exist because such "rules" exist in our brains or in a more general sense in our living systems. And when the species attains some level of evolutionary stability or maturity they flaunt with it; they simply use these behaviors to maximize their chances of reproductive success. These behaviors are in a sense "naturally selected".

This does not mean people who play musical instruments are constantly on the lookout for partners. This does not mean that people who go to rock concerts or an opera are looking out for suitable partners to mate with. Some go to enjoy the art form. Some go to have a good time with friends. Of course some do go out for seeking partners to mate with. Some don't go. Some have even more vile intents. All of this simply says our species is increasingly selective for the better or worse. That's all.

Well, this is all I have today. But I hope you are at least a bit inspired to think evolution (if not evolutionary psychology). Happy figuring out life...

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