Monkey Jukebox Experiment Reveals How Chimps Feel About Music


As closely related species, humans and chimps not only share many of the same genes but practices likes war, play, and rituals. However, a study published in PLOS One shows scientists discovered a stark difference between the two animals: While a human might think it’s reasonable to throw down $400 on Coachella tickets, chimps don’t give a shit about music.

That’s a consequential difference, because music is considered by some scientists to be an evolutionary driven entity arising from cognitive and biological advancements. If the enjoyment of music is a uniquely human thing, that might offer further understanding to how humans and chimps evolved differently after splitting from a single ancestor species.

This is the first study that gave chimps the option to avoid music entirely during the test period — a key difference from previous studies, where scientists have controversially found human vocals to help reduce aggression (critics argued that the result might simply have been a result of chimps being forced to listen to music).

The team of scientists behind this paper, however, conducted three separate trials in which chimps were both given the opportunity to listen to a variety of genres — and the option to walk away.

These chimps don't care about your playlist.

Wikimedia Commons

Across every sample of chimps and in every trial, the scientists found that chimps neither actively avoided being in areas where music was playing, nor did they seek out listening to music. This was regardless of the genre of music utilized, which ranged from classical, African folk, rock, and pop. In the trials where chimps could leave a pod that was playing music, the “genre of music had no differential effects on the chimpanzee’s use of space and behavior.” When chimps were given a device that allowed them the option to select and listen to either classical music, rock, African folk music, or silence, no overall preference for a sound emerged. Meanwhile, every single chimp also lost total interest in interacting with the device.

“The fact that music had littler overall effect on the behavior of the chimpanzees could have been influenced by relatively low levels of exposure to music over the course of the study,” the researchers write. “However, another possible explanation for our results could be that chimpanzees do not find music enjoyable.”

Related Tags