"Our objective was not to find a preference for different cultures' music. We used cultural music from Africa, India and Japan to pinpoint specific acoustic properties," said Frans de Waal from Emory University in US.

Previous research has found that some nonhuman primates prefer slower tempos but the current findings may be the first study to show that they display a preference for particular rhythmic patterns.

When African and Indian music was played near their large outdoor enclosures, the chimpanzees spent significantly more time in areas where they could best hear the music. When Japanese music was played, they were more likely to be found in spots where it was more difficult or impossible to hear the music.

The African and Indian music in the experiment had extreme ratios of strong to weak beats, whereas the Japanese music had regular strong beats, which is also typical of Western music.

"Chimpanzees may perceive the strong, predictable rhythmic patterns as threatening, as chimpanzee dominance displays commonly incorporate repeated rhythmic sounds such as stomping, clapping and banging objects," de Waal explained.

Sixteen adult chimps in two groups participated in the experiment at the Yerkes National Primate Research Center at Emory University.

The study appeared in Journal of Experimental Psychology: Animal Learning and Cognition.

(Agencies)

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