ArticlePDF AvailableLiterature Review

Musical emotions: Functions, origins, evolution

Authors:

Abstract

Theories of music origins and the role of musical emotions in the mind are reviewed. Most existing theories contradict each other, and cannot explain mechanisms or roles of musical emotions in workings of the mind, nor evolutionary reasons for music origins. Music seems to be an enigma. Nevertheless, a synthesis of cognitive science and mathematical models of the mind has been proposed describing a fundamental role of music in the functioning and evolution of the mind, consciousness, and cultures. The review considers ancient theories of music as well as contemporary theories advanced by leading authors in this field. It addresses one hypothesis that promises to unify the field and proposes a theory of musical origin based on a fundamental role of music in cognition and evolution of consciousness and culture. We consider a split in the vocalizations of proto-humans into two types: one less emotional and more concretely-semantic, evolving into language, and the other preserving emotional connections along with semantic ambiguity, evolving into music. The proposed hypothesis departs from other theories in considering specific mechanisms of the mind-brain, which required the evolution of music parallel with the evolution of cultures and languages. Arguments are reviewed that the evolution of language toward becoming the semantically powerful tool of today required emancipation from emotional encumbrances. The opposite, no less powerful mechanisms required a compensatory evolution of music toward more differentiated and refined emotionality. The need for refined music in the process of cultural evolution is grounded in fundamental mechanisms of the mind. This is why today's human mind and cultures cannot exist without today's music. The reviewed hypothesis gives a basis for future analysis of why different evolutionary paths of languages were paralleled by different evolutionary paths of music. Approaches toward experimental verification of this hypothesis in psychological and neuroimaging research are reviewed.
A preview of the PDF is not available
... While the evolutionary origins of music are debated from a range of perspectives (Brown et al., 1999;Honing et al., 2013;Mithen, 2011;Wallin et al., 2003), some theorists have proposed that joint music-making may have created a shared emotional experience which was generally positive, facilitating enhanced group cohesion; this in turn led to increased expressions of pro-social behaviours (Cross, 2009;Cross & Morley, 2009;Dunbar et al., 2012;Fitch, 2006;Perlovsky, 2010;Perlovsky, 2011;Savage et al., 2020;Schulkin & Raglan, 2014;Tomlinson, 2013). It could be that cooperative music-making continues to provide these benefits today. ...
... Music is a near-universal expression in both individuals (Blacking, 1973;Koelsch, 2012;Tomlinson, 2013;Trehub, 2001) and societies, throughout history and across cultures (Brown & Jordania, 2013;Cross, 2003;Snowdon et al., 2015;Titon & Slobin, 1996). Evolutionary theories concerning the utility of group singing, as the first and most fundamental form of joint music-making (Bannan, 2012;Fitch, 2006;Mithen, 2009), argue that it creates a shared, positive emotional state, facilitates group cohesion, and increases empathic responses (Cross, 2001(Cross, , 2003(Cross, , 2007(Cross, , 2008Greenberg et al., 2015;Harvey, 2018;Loersch & Arbuckle, 2013;Perlovsky, 2010Perlovsky, , 2011Savage et al., 2020;Schulkin & Raglan, 2014;Snowdon et al., 2015). Empathy is linked to the development of pro-social behaviours Eisenberg & Miller, 1987;Telle & Pfister, 2015), which in turn reinforce group bonds and cohesion. ...
Thesis
Full-text available
Human musicality is a mystery. Theorists have proposed that it was evolutionarily adaptive through its ability to create a shared and positive emotional state, increase a sense of social cohesion, and encourage pro-social behaviours. This research found that group singing provides immediate socio-emotional wellbeing benefits but longer-term benefits are confined to emotional domains. These effects were not unique to group singing, but were similar across comparison groups. Wellbeing was facilitated by both group characteristics (music, movement, socialising) and individual mindset towards participation (motivation, flow), with greater benefits for exercise groups. Implications for social prescribing and similar interventions are discussed.
... Exploratory behavior is essential in environments that are novel, have surprising elements, and are complex (van Lieshout et al., 2020). Humans intrinsically seek knowledge (Berlyne, 1954;Perlovsky, 2010), have a drive for curiosity (Jepma et al., 2012), and actively engage with novel environments (Kidd and Hayden, 2015). Exploratory behavior can be seen as resulting from a desire to reduce uncertainty, a mechanism that all biological agents share (Friston, 2010;Schwartenbeck et al., 2013). ...
Article
Full-text available
Atonal music is often characterized by low predictability stemming from the absence of tonal or metrical hierarchies. In contrast, Western tonal music exhibits intrinsic predictability due to its hierarchical structure and therefore, offers a directly accessible predictive model to the listener. In consequence, a specific challenge of atonal music is that listeners must generate a variety of new predictive models. Listeners must not only refrain from applying available tonal models to the heard music, but they must also search for statistical regularities and build new rules that may be related to musical properties other than pitch, such as timbre or dynamics. In this article, we propose that the generation of such new predictive models and the aesthetic experience of atonal music are characterized by internal states related to exploration. This is a behavior well characterized in behavioral neuroscience as fulfilling an innate drive to reduce uncertainty but which has received little attention in empirical music research. We support our proposal with emerging evidence that the hedonic value is associated with the recognition of patterns in low-predictability sound sequences and that atonal music elicits distinct behavioral responses in listeners. We end by outlining new research avenues that might both deepen our understanding of the aesthetic experience of atonal music in particular, and reveal core qualities of the aesthetic experience in general.
... It is possible, however, to go beyond this sensory processing by soliciting cognitive mechanisms that allow a transition to a conscious hedonic feeling of liking through the mediation of higher-order structures in the brain. This is the conceptual hypothesis of musical pleasure [120], which implies psychological processes of cognitive mastering as a crucial stage of information processing that leads to aesthetic outcomes of judgments and emotions [124][125][126]. ...
Article
Full-text available
This article is a hypothesis and theory paper. It elaborates on the possible relation between music as a stimulus and its possible effects, with a focus on the question of why listeners are experiencing pleasure and reward. Though it is tempting to seek for a causal relationship, this has proven to be elusive given the many intermediary variables that intervene between the actual impingement on the senses and the reactions/responses by the listener. A distinction can be made, however, between three elements: (i) an objective description of the acoustic features of the music and their possible role as elicitors; (ii) a description of the possible modulating factors—both external/exogenous and internal/endogenous ones; and (iii) a continuous and real-time description of the responses by the listener, both in terms of their psychological reactions and their physiological correlates. Music listening, in this broadened view, can be considered as a multivariate phenomenon of biological, psychological, and cultural factors that, together, shape the overall, full-fledged experience. In addition to an overview of the current and extant research on musical enjoyment and reward, we draw attention to some key methodological problems that still complicate a full description of the musical experience. We further elaborate on how listening may entail both adaptive and maladaptive ways of coping with the sounds, with the former allowing a gentle transition from mere hedonic pleasure to eudaimonic enjoyment.
... However, without a flow experience of music to intrigue the teacher's mind to capture his motivation to spread this musical enlightenment, music teaching may be remained in a level with no capability to touch our souls, minds and bodies (cf. Perlovsky, 2009Perlovsky, /2010Kypourgous, 2012;Csikszentmihalyi, 1990). Shared experiences are needed to be able to find abilities to communicate, be present and create an atmosphere of trust as a basis for the democracy in education. ...
... The second is a proposal by Perlovsky (2010) that music co-evolved with language to compensate for the hypertrophy of cognition that language facilitated. Perlovsky, who had an intriguing if idiosyncratic theory of psychology and culture, argued that language promotes a focus on conceptual thinking, leaving behind the instinctual, emotional, and behavioral aspects of the person. ...
Article
Full-text available
Some accounts of the evolution of music suggest that it emerged from emotionally expressive vocalizations and serves as a necessary counterweight to the cognitive elaboration of language. Thus, emotional expression appears to be intrinsic to the creation and perception of music, and music ought to serve as a model for affect itself. Because music exists as patterns of changes in sound over time, affect should also be seen in patterns of changing feelings. Psychologists have given relatively little attention to these patterns. Results from statistical approaches to the analysis of affect dynamics have so far been modest. Two of the most significant treatments of temporal patterns in affect—sentics and vitality affects have remained outside mainstream emotion research. Analysis of musical structure suggests three phenomena relevant to the temporal form of emotion: affect contours, volitional affects, and affect transitions. I discuss some implications for research on affect and for exploring the evolutionary origins of music and emotions.
... Related to such skillful listening is cognitive mastering, a crucial stage of information processing that leads to the aesthetic outcomes of judgments and emotions as the outcome of knowledge and understanding [85,86]. Professional musicians, e.g., have access to different cognitive strategies and auxiliary representations of music in comparison with musical laymen. ...
Article
Full-text available
The last decades have seen a proliferation of music and brain studies, with a major focus on plastic changes as the outcome of continuous and prolonged engagement with music. Thanks to the advent of neuroaesthetics, research on music cognition has broadened its scope by considering the multifarious phenomenon of listening in all its forms, including incidental listening up to the skillful attentive listening of experts, and all its possible effects. These latter range from objective and sensorial effects directly linked to the acoustic features of the music to the subjectively affective and even transformational effects for the listener. Of special importance is the finding that neural activity in the reward circuit of the brain is a key component of a conscious listening experience. We propose that the connection between music and the reward system makes music listening a gate towards not only hedonia but also eudaimonia, namely a life well lived, full of meaning that aims at realizing one’s own “daimon” or true nature. It is argued, further, that music listening, even when conceptualized in this aesthetic and eudaimonic framework, remains a learnable skill that changes the way brain structures respond to sounds and how they interact with each other.
... Because these ideas have been reviewed and discussed elsewhere (e.g. [6,79,80]), we will not examine them in depth. Instead, this section addresses: (i) issues in the evolutionary study of music and (ii) some major ideas in the evolutionary theories of music, enabling us, in §4, to propose a theoretical model for the evolution of musicality. ...
Article
Full-text available
Studies show that specific vocal modulations, akin to those of infant-directed speech (IDS) and perhaps music, play a role in communicating intentions and mental states during human social interaction. Based on this, we propose a model for the evolution of musicality—the capacity to process musical information—in relation to human vocal communication. We suggest that a complex social environment, with strong social bonds, promoted the appearance of musicality-related abilities. These social bonds were not limited to those between offspring and mothers or other carers, although these may have been especially influential in view of altriciality of human infants. The model can be further tested in other species by comparing levels of sociality and complexity of vocal communication. By integrating several theories, our model presents a radically different view of musicality, not limited to specifically musical scenarios, but one in which this capacity originally evolved to aid parent–infant communication and bonding, and even today plays a role not only in music but also in IDS, as well as in some adult-directed speech contexts. This article is part of the theme issue ‘Voice modulation: from origin and mechanism to social impact (Part II)’.
... When listening to music, people often connect what they have heard to their thoughts and emotions. This process is associated with the concept of "theory of mind" -the ability to understand the intentions and emotional state of others (Jackendoff and Lerdahl, 2006;Perlovsky, 2010). Indeed, empathy is putting oneself in other people's shoes and feeling what one thinks others are feeling, but maintaining the distinction between self and others, while listening to music involves a similar process of viewing from a distance as in empathy (Epperson, 1967). ...
Article
Full-text available
Music not only regulates mood but also promotes the development and maintenance of empathy and social understanding. Since empathy is crucial for well-being and indispensable in social life, it is necessary to develop strategies to improve empathy and prosocial behaviors. To fulfill this aim, researchers have extensively investigated the effect of intensive musical training on the development of empathy. Here, we first summarize evidence showing the powerful influence of musical training on the development of empathy and then discuss psychological mechanisms responsible for those observations. The conclusions drawn from most previous studies were mainly based on behavioral measurements, while the neural basis of musical training in the development of the empathic brain is still unclear. Fortunately, brain imaging research has contributed greatly to our understanding of the neural underpinnings associated with musical training and its possible connection to the development of the empathic brain. One of the most distinctive signatures of musical training is structural and functional changes of multiple brain regions, and such changes might be related to some of the empathic behaviors observed in musically trained children. Therefore, intensive musical training in childhood may increase levels of empathy, and applied research is required to optimize the training strategy before implementing music education in empathy regulation. Moreover, future longitudinal studies are needed to better understand neural mechanisms underlying the causal effect of musical training on empathy development. These findings have important implications for understanding the development of the empathic brain and for improving prosocial behaviors.
Preprint
Full-text available
Studies show that specific vocal modulations, akin to those of infant-directed speech and perhaps music, play a role in communicating intentions and mental states during human social interaction. Based on this, we propose a model for the evolution of musicality –the capacity to process musical information– in relation to human vocal communication. We suggest that a complex social environment, with strong social bonds, promoted the appearance of musicality-related abilities. These social bonds were not limited to those between offspring and mothers or other carers, although these may have been especially influential in view of altriciality of human infants. The model can be further tested in other species by comparing levels of sociality and complexity of vocal communication. By integrating several theories, our model presents a radically different view of musicality, not limited to specifically musical scenarios, but one in which this capacity originally evolved to aid parent-infant communication and bonding, and even today plays a role, not only in music but also in infant-directed speech (IDS), as well as some adult-directed speech (ADS) contexts.
Article
Full-text available
What is the role of language and cognition in thinking? Is language just a communication device, or is it fundamental in developing thoughts? Chomsky suggested that language is separate from cognition. Cognitive linguistics emphasizes a single mechanism of both. Neither led to a computational theory. Here we develop a hypothesis that language and cognition are two separate but closely interconnected mechanisms; the role of each is identified. Language stores cultural wisdom; cognition develops mental representations modeling surrounding world and adapts cultural knowledge to concrete circumstances of life. Language is acquired from surrounding language 'ready-made' and therefore can be acquired early in life. This early acquisition of language by five years of age encompasses the entire hierarchy from sounds to words, to phrases, to highest concepts existing in culture. Cognition requires experience. The paper presents arguments why cognition can not be acquired directly from experience; language is a necessary intermediary, a "teacher." A mathematical model is developed that overcomes previous difficulties towards a computational theory. This model implies a specific neural mechanism consistent with Arbib's "language prewired brain;" it also models recent neuroimaging data about cognition, remaining unnoticed by other theories. The suggested theory explains a number of properties of language and cognition, which previously seemed mysterious.
Book
This book addresses dynamical aspects of brain functions and cognition. Experimental evidence in humans and other mammalians indicates that complex neurodynamics is crucial for the emergence of higher-level cognition and consciousness. Dynamical neural systems with encoding in limit cycle and non-convergent attractors have gained increasing popularity in the past decade. The role of synchronization, desynchronization, and intermittent synchronization on cognition has been studied extensively by various authors, in particular by authors contributing to the present volume. This volume gives an overview of recent advances in this interdisciplinary field of cognitive and computer science related to dynamics of cognition, including experimental studies, dynamical modelling and interpretation of cognitive experiments, and theoretical approaches. The following topics are covered in this book: spatio-temporal dynamics of neural correlates of higher-level cognition; dynamical neural memories, including continuous and discrete approaches; mathematical and physical models of cognition; experiments on dynamical aspects of cognition; interpretation of normal and abnormal cognitive behaviours. This volume is of great interest for researchers and graduate students working on practical and modeling aspects of cognitive dynamics. It provides a comprehensive introduction to the field, which can be used as a supplementary textbook for cognitive science and computer science and engineering graduate courses covering intelligent behavior in biological and artificial systems.
Article
Many decisions are based on beliefs concerning the likelihood of uncertain events such as the outcome of an election, the guilt of a defendant, or the future value of the dollar. Occasionally, beliefs concerning uncertain events are expressed in numerical form as odds or subjective probabilities. In general, the heuristics are quite useful, but sometimes they lead to severe and systematic errors. The subjective assessment of probability resembles the subjective assessment of physical quantities such as distance or size. These judgments are all based on data of limited validity, which are processed according to heuristic rules. However, the reliance on this rule leads to systematic errors in the estimation of distance. This chapter describes three heuristics that are employed in making judgments under uncertainty. The first is representativeness, which is usually employed when people are asked to judge the probability that an object or event belongs to a class or event. The second is the availability of instances or scenarios, which is often employed when people are asked to assess the frequency of a class or the plausibility of a particular development, and the third is adjustment from an anchor, which is usually employed in numerical prediction when a relevant value is available.