Chicks dig certain types of music

Jul 07, 2011

(PhysOrg.com) -- What accounts for the sounds we like to hear? Is it something about the properties of our auditory systems or brains? Or are such tastes learned? Two-month-old human infants show a preference for consonant, or gentler harmonies over more dissonant or harsher ones. But it's still impossible to know whether that preference is inborn, since the babies may have exposed to certain sounds, even in utero.

Birds show similar behaviors: they can distinguish between different kinds of sounds and certain species are attracted to certain sounds. But because no one had experimented on raised in a controlled, isolated environment, before they’ve experienced any social life, the reasons have remained unclear.

For the first time, neuroscientists Cinzia Chiandetti and Giorgio Vallortigara of the Center for Mind/ Sciences of the University of Trento, Italy, did just that: They tested the spontaneous preferences of newly hatched domestic chickens. Their conclusion: “Chicks like consonant sounds.”

The findings will be published in an upcoming issue of Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science.

Eighty-one chicks were incubated in isolated chambers warmed by a lightbulb. Days after hatching, each chick was brought into a testing area consisting of a runway with a speaker at each end, separated from the birds by polyester partitions. The birds were confined to the middle of the runway.

The speakers simultaneously broadcast recorded melodies played on a piano synthesizer—the same melodies used in as in infant research. From one speaker came consonant sounds—using the more mellifluous intervals of major and minor thirds. The other melodies were harmonized with more grating sounds: major seconds, pitches right next to each other on the scale. Although the harmonies differed, the melodies were the same in tempo, pitch, and rhythm. Then the partitions were removed and the chicks got six minutes to move around. Videotaped recordings were analyzed for where they went and the length of time they spent in each area.

The results: At first, the birds stayed in the middle, as chicks tend to freeze in reaction to new experiences. Then, more quickly with each trial, they moved to their favorite speaker, and demonstrated a “significant preference” for the consonant harmonies. Chiandetti, who also has a degree in psychology, says the findings are “particularly intriguing” because chickens are non-singing birds: they don’t learn melodies, hence they are usually considered to have less aesthetic taste.”

Still, distinguishing among sounds must certainly helps the birds survive in changing environments.

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User comments : 13

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epsi00
not rated yet Jul 07, 2011
See now we can say we share something with chiks, not just chimps and baboons.
lengould100
5 / 5 (1) Jul 07, 2011
I always knew chicks had no taste.
Ricochet
not rated yet Jul 07, 2011
My son showed preferences toward Hendrix, Texas Blues, and Electronica from about 6 months on, does that skew anyone else's results?
tommytalks77
not rated yet Jul 07, 2011
I had a wonderful experience with my son when he was just 2 or 3 months old one day when one day he was just crying real hard, I couldn't figure out why or make him stop so I laid him on the bed and turned some music on, "Is This Love" by Bob Marley (it was already loaded on my CD player- no MP3 in those days yet...) and as soon as the song started, REALLY right from the first note, the boy just stopped crying, opened up his eyes real big and started looking up and around him as if he was trying to figure out where "it" was coming from.

Really amazing to witness that!
Isaacsname
not rated yet Jul 07, 2011
I always noticed women like bass, men prefer treble, mostly.

Birds, I notice, tend to either be attracted to females, or males ( Human ) but will always choose to be around one sex over the other. I always attributed this to a preference for a male voice over a female voice, or vice-versa, but it never seemed to follow a pattern based on the birds' sexs.

Good article.

Off Topic: You can stop a baby from crying if you make the sound of sipping water in it's ear ( for you stoners out there, the bonghit sound ), trick I learned from some Japanese friends.
Ricochet
not rated yet Jul 07, 2011
Maybe any interesting sound would work... Then again, there may be some science-worthy reasoning behind the waterbong sound...
JaeKyung
not rated yet Jul 07, 2011
Silly title
Isaacsname
not rated yet Jul 07, 2011
Maybe any interesting sound would work... Then again, there may be some science-worthy reasoning behind the waterbong sound...


Could be similar to the sound of being born ?
Vendicar_Decarian
3 / 5 (2) Jul 08, 2011
Chicks have no taste?

I'm sure they taste like chicken.
Vendicar_Decarian
3 / 5 (2) Jul 08, 2011
"I always noticed women like bass, men prefer treble, mostly." - Whomever

I mostly like short blonds with brown eyes.
Isaacsname
not rated yet Jul 08, 2011
"I always noticed women like bass, men prefer treble, mostly." - Whomever

I mostly like short blonds with brown eyes.

~ What's his face


What breed of sheep is that ?
Vendicar_Decarian
1 / 5 (1) Jul 09, 2011
Sheep, sheep, sheep. That is all you think about Issacsname.
MentalHealthNut
not rated yet Jul 09, 2011
I would like to know the frequency range and the amplitude conducted in this experiment. I believe the chicks may have preferred the consonants because of the feeling of vibration on their bodies. A dissonant chord would create a very unstable phase correlation and the amplitude would vary in an uncomfortable manner. Variable spikes in amplitude are always very uncomfortable to any creature (or human) that doesn't understand the lack of risk involved.