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Re: Innate responses to sound

Hi Ross,

I don't know how you could determine if a response to a sound was
innate or not, short of locking up an infant in a sonically
impoverished environment.  You could certainly look at the auditory
developmental literature and there are some sounds that infants seem
to respond to more than others, but you don't necessarily know what
they are responding to.  In the case of nails across the blackboard
(assuming there would be a response) would it be the similarity to
some kind of primal call or just the extreme amount of high-frequency
energy?  Also, by the time children are born they have already been
exposed to quite a range of sounds in the environment, albeit low-pass
filtered through the amniotic fluid, so quite a bit of learning has
already taken place.  The problem with any sort of evolutionary
explanations for behavior is that they are inherently unfalsifiable
(although they can be fun).

Brian Gygi, Ph.D.
Speech and Hearing Research
Veterans Affairs Martinez Clinic
Martinez, CA

-----Original Message-----
From: Ross Rochford [mailto:digiology@xxxxxxxxx]
Sent: Wednesday, May 21, 2008 04:03 PM
To: AUDITORY@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx
Subject: Innate responses to sound


I am considering for my thesis an exploration of innate responses to
sounds, that is, unlearned and presumably having evolved to serve some
function. The idea of the evolutionary lag where we have evolved to
adapt to an environment that existed thousands of years ago interests
me, I wonder what the implications of this are for how we respond to
sound and how music affects our mood.

I am looking for papers (or books) on responses to sound that are
likely to be innate in humans. Also papers that discuss the
evolutionary origins of our responses to sound and music and how our
past environment (and tasks therein, e.g. hunting) have shaped them. I
am hoping for the kinds of explanations that have been proposed for
arachnophobia, that a fear of spiders had survival advantage as we may
have evolved among poisonous spiders.

While researching, I found a suggestion that our response to nails on
a blackboard is because of the similarity (of its spectrum) to the
warning call of macaque monkeys. Although I don't believe this is an
adequate explanation (the warning calls don't produce the same
response as nails on a blackboard in humans), it is similar to what I
am looking for.

Any suggestions on where to start are greatly appreciated.