Since the beginning of the rock era and certainly even before that, male musicians have been known for an unrivaled ability to draw hordes of admiring female fans. Now researchers may have uncovered a scientific reason for their attractiveness to the opposite sex. And all this time we thought it was just the allure of sex, drugs and rock & roll.
A study in the The Proceedings Of The Royal Society B suggests that woman in their most fertile phases are more attracted to men who can produce the best music. The researchers that conducted the study at the University of Sussex said the findings indicated that women believed men with strong musical abilities carried better genes than those lacking in such skills.
The study involved nearly 1,500 women with an average age of 28, who were not breastfeeding, pregnant or using hormonal contraception. This group of women were asked whether they would prefer the composer of one simple melody, or a second more complex piece. In each case they were asked whether they would prefer the composer as a short-term sexual partner, or a longer-term partner in a committed relationship.
Over 140 years ago Charles Darwin first argued that birdsong and human music, having no clear survival benefit, were obvious candidates for sexual selection. Whereas the first contention is now universally accepted, his theory that music is a product of sexual selection through mate choice has largely been neglected.
Here is the first empirical support for the sexual selection hypothesis of music evolution by showing that women have sexual preferences during peak conception times for men that are able to create more complex music. Two-alternative forced-choice experiments revealed that woman only preferred composers of more complex music as short-term sexual partners when conception risk was highest. No preferences were displayed when women chose which composer they would prefer as a long-term partner in a committed relationship, and control experiments failed to reveal an effect of conception risk on women’s preferences for visual artists.
These results suggest that women may acquire genetic benefits for offspring by selecting musicians able to create more complex music as sexual partners, and provide compelling support for Darwin’s assertion ‘that musical notes and rhythm were first acquired by the male or female progenitors of mankind for the sake of charming the opposite sex’.