Research Colloquium

Research Colloquium: Is music an evolutionary adaptation for social bonding?

Lecture Theatre 1, School of Music

The speaker is Jacques Launay (Brunel University London)

Chaired by Freya Bailes

Music has existed in every human culture throughout history without serving any one clear purpose. Evolutionary theorists suggest that music could be used to display potential mate value, to support mother-infant communication, or to encourage social connections and produce effective groups. In this presentation I will discuss the social bonding theory of music using two lines of research.

The first suggests that many separable elements of musical activities are independently socially bonding, examples being sharing attention towards a common sensory input, physical exertion, and synchronisation. The second line of research investigates whether music is a ‘special’ activity for social bonding, with a greater capacity for making people feel close to one another than other similar activities which are performed in groups. The studies discussed in this presentation cannot directly test whether music is an adaptation for social bonding, but they do suggest that music is a particularly good activity for forming social connections, one which could be optimally harnessed.

Jacques Launay

Jacques Launay is an interdisciplinary researcher in the human sciences, with a background that spans Anthropology to Evolutionary Psychology, to Cognitive Neuroscience. His interest has always been in the Psychology of Music, and specifically in the role that musical activities can play in social bonding, and the potential health benefits this could provide. He has studied in London, Paris and Sydney, and is currently a lecturer in Psychology at Brunel University London.