Saturday, 1 August 2009

Chimpanzees Like Music - Well At Least Sakura The Baby Chimp Does

Chimpanzees also appreciate good music according to a new study by Tasuku Sugimoto and Kazuhide Hashiya of Kyushu University in Hakozaki, along with other Japanese colleagues.

According to Hashiya "Music is one of the universal human natures beyond cultures, just like language."

Key Points:

  • Infant chimpanzees demonstrate a preference for harmonious music over dissonant music.
  • Possibility this appreciation has evolved from the common ancestors of humans and modern apes.
  • Similar research on birds and cotton-top tamarin monkeys has found no preference for pleasant music.
  • It is speculated that a chimps' innate preference for pleasant music might have some survival function in the wild, for example distinguishing chimp voices from other forest sounds.

Experimental Methods:

  • A young captive chimpanzee named Sakura was tested to see how she would respond to music as she grew from 17 weeks to 23 weeks old.
  • Sakura had been abandoned by her mother at Itozu-no-mori Park in Fukuoka.
  • The park staff to give full care for Sakura.
  • Sakura had not experienced any form of music prior to the study.
  • In the experiments Sakura lay on a bed with a string attached to her right hand.
  • Sakura could pull the string when ever she wanted.
  • The string was attached to a music player set up in the room, which would play pleasant melodious music lasting between 38-63 seconds every time Sakura pulled the string.
  • During the six trials being held once a week for 20 minutes each, Sakura was played a broad range of music, including a 38 second minuet from Duette Englischer Meister in F major and a 38 second minuet from a handwritten sheet of German music from 1720.
  • The tunes were also adjusted with orchestration software to make them less pleasant (dissonant).
  • Sakura was played pleasant, harmonious pleasant music in half of the tests, and dissonant music in the other half.


  • Sakura consistently pulled the string far more to listen to the pleasant music than the discordant music.