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Book Chapter

Acoustically mediated emotional contagion as an across-species homology underlying music processing


Fritz,  Thomas Hans
Department Neurology, MPI for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences, Max Planck Society;

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Fritz, T. H., & Koelsch, S. (2013). Acoustically mediated emotional contagion as an across-species homology underlying music processing. In E. Altenmüller (Ed.), Evolution of emotional communication: From sounds in nonhuman mammals to speech and music in man (pp. 300-312). Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Cite as: https://hdl.handle.net/11858/00-001M-0000-0013-F8FD-E
An understanding about the biological roots of music my be vital to the study of human evolution. Here we first review ideas on drumming and song as homologous traits of the human capacity for music, and then point out another possible homology of this capacity - a neurological physiology supporting acoustically mediated emotional contagion. A key aspect of this argument is that acoustically mediated emotionally contagious behaviors in our closest phylogenetic relatives (play panting and pant-hoots in African great apes) are structurally and functionally related to laughter and music in humans. We conclude that the musical capacity in humans may have evolved as a response to selective pressures for increased group size for its effect of synchronizing group motivation and emotional experience through acoustically mediated emotional contagion, and as such would have promoted group gatherings, social functions, and the establishment of rituals.