music’s biological basis

dennis posts on some recent research (that i linked to here) about how, it turns out (surprise, surprise to anyone not paying attention), that listening to music is biological; specifically that individuals with certain variations of a gene related to the hormone, vasopressin, listen to music more frequently than other individuals with different variations of the gene. (btw, the same gene variations have been associated with musical ability.)

that same gene has also been associated with monogamy (or not) in prairie voles (they’re so cuuuuuute!), and so it’s not too much of a stretch, i think, to say that this is obviously one of the genes involved in singing (or making some other sort of musical noise) and mate attraction|retention. yeah, just like the birdies.

and, while that’s all extremely interesting, i think dennis asks the most interesting (rhetorical) question: “How could music not have a biological or evolutionary basis?”


in fact, how could all sorts of “cultural” things that we humans do NOT have a biological or evolutionary basis?

in case you haven’t noticed, that has been, and will prolly continue to be (don’t say i didn’t warn you!), an ongoing theme here on this blog: where does culture come from? (hint: i think a helluva lot of it is from our biologies. at the same time, of course, there are clearly many aspects of our cultures that are pure happenstance.)

and now, for your viewing enjoyment, “why do voles fall in love?”:

~ ~ ~

(p.s. you just know that there’s gotta be differences in the frequencies of these vasopressin gene types, as well as any other genes related to pair-bonding, in different human populations. ¿sí?)

(note: comments do not require an email.)


  1. @luke – “You’ve read The Mating Mind?”

    no, i haven’t! altho i’ve flipped through it. it’s been on my shelf for absolutely ages. you’re saying it should be bumped up on the reading list?

    @luke – “This is a fine new site.”

    thnx for saying so! (^_^)


  2. Yes, I thought The Mating Mind gave a plausible explanation for what otherwise seems puzzling: the human capacity for wit, humor, story telling, music, dance, art. He speculates that it was a product of sexual selection, the idea being that for an intelligent hominid was pretty boring around the campfire at night in Paleolithic times. The ability to entertain would (could?) have been attractive in such circumstances, leading to a kind of runaway selection for the ability not only to produce but to appreciate these otherwise costly forms of display. This is only a rough paraphrase of a well-written book. How else account for the veritably insatiable human appetite for entertainment we see all around us?


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