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Re: Fw: animals and music

At 20:28 05/03/05 +0000, Lowel P. O'Mard wrote:
Hi People,

We as humans have a tendency towards elitism with regard to the
capabilities of other animals. Just because they do not seem moved by
human music as much as humans can be, does not mean that they are
incapable of being so moved.

We as humans also have a tremendous capacity to anthropomorphize. As scientists, we are supposed to be extra-careful not to fall into this trap. Just because the dog comes and stares at the speakers doesn't mean he's listening to the music, much less enjoying it. We need a higher standard that that, folks!

Besides, the assumption that animals do not respond to human music the way that humans do is merely the appropriate null hypothesis--to be disproved by appropriate data. It does NOT mean we are elitist. It merely means that we are being careful, and are aware of cross-species differences. We do not respond to a given animal sound in the same way the animal does, so why should it respond the way we do to our sounds? It would be elitist if we said "we're better than they are" it is not elitist to say "we have a different set of adaptations than they do."  Our auditory system is really bad at, say, echolocation, but is particularly good at music and speech; other animals are specialized differently. Our job is to understand how each nervous system works based on its particular biology.

Now perhaps we can all stop barking up this same tree...or flogging the dead horse....at least for a while!



Robert J. Zatorre, Ph.D.
Montreal Neurological Institute
3801 University St.
Montreal, QC Canada H3A 2B4
phone: 1-514-398-8903
fax: 1-514-398-1338
web site: www.zlab.mcgill.ca