Both men and women who presented themselves as musical artists were automatically more sexually attractive.
A new experimental study conducted in Austria found that presenting a man as a musical artist significantly increases his attractiveness to a date and his attractiveness to women. Likewise, featuring a woman as a recording artist has increased your dating appeal to men. The study was published in Frontiers in Psychology.
Scientists have long wondered about the origin and social function of music. On the one hand, music is a universal phenomenon present in all cultures around the world. On the other hand, musical behavior has no immediate survival value and therefore it is not clear how it evolved and spread in human populations.
A theoretical approach suggests that the study of the social role of music must begin by differentiating between musicality, “the set of capacities and tendencies that allow our species to generate and appreciate music in all its various forms”, and music, “the product of human musicality”.
The evolution of musicality can possibly be explained using the Darwin’s hypothesis of sexual selection. This hypothesis states that certain traits can evolve and become established if they provide the individual with those traits with greater success in finding a mate and thereby creating offspring that will inherit the advantageous trait.
“There are many theories about the origins of human musicality and, at the moment, researchers do not agree on a single theory, and sometimes there is – for my taste – too much speculation involved,” says study author Manuela M. Marin, a psychologist musician, researcher and professor linked to the University of Vienna. “So I thought it might be worth contributing to this debate by providing empirical data.”
However, developing experiments to test theories about the origins of musicality is an arduous task. In general, I’m interested in how music influences visual perception. So I thought it would be a good idea to investigate how musicality affects face perception and courtship behavior in the context of Darwin’s hypothesis of sexual selection.”
Certain traits can evolve and become established if they provide the individual with those traits with greater success in finding a mate.
“Partner choice and dating behavior are determined by a wide range of factors. The human face is an important biological and social cue in any dating scenario. Musicality may be another relevant clue because researchers have proposed that musicality is a sign of intelligence and enhanced motor skills.”
“The song is also mostly performed in a social context, in which dating usually takes place. Overall, music and dating seemed like a promising topic to study, especially since not many people were working to test Darwin’s theory at the time I was interested.”
music makes you sexy
To test the hypothesis that musicality makes an individual more attractive to potential sexual partners, the researchers conducted an experiment with a sample of 35 heterosexual men and 35 women. Participants were mostly German and Austrian psychology students.
All declared to be single and the participating women were instructed not to take hormonal contraceptives, not to be pregnant and not to breastfeed. The two groups were matched in age, mood, role of music in their lives, years of musical training, and liking for the piano music used in the experiment.
There were two conditions in the experiment: musical peak (experimental) and silence (control). In the silent condition, participants were asked to rate the facial attractiveness and desire to date of 37 average attractive faces presented in random order. Twenty of these faces were opposite-sex “targets,” faces whose ratings the researchers were genuinely interested in. The remaining 17 faces were same-sex faces used as distractors and not included in the analyses.
In the music condition, participants listened to different musical snippets of various characteristics, each 25 seconds long, randomly paired with the same 20 opposite-sex faces used in the control condition. Each of these faces was shown to participants 4 times accompanied by musical excerpts. Target faces were interspersed with 17 same-sex distractors (not analyzed).
The participants were told that the music they were listening to was played by the person whose face they were supposed to rate. The experiment was conducted separately for men and women: men saw women’s “target” faces and women saw men’s faces as “targets”.
The results showed that women rated target faces as substantially more attractive after listening to music allegedly played by these people. Attractiveness scores were higher regardless of the stimulating or pleasant qualities of the music associated with the face (assumed to be played by the target person). The difference in dating desirability was even more pronounced: after being told that the faces shown belonged to the people playing the song, they rated them as much more desirable to date than they did in the control condition.
Men rated faces targeted in the music condition as most desirable for a date, but attributing music playing to target faces did not affect their attractiveness ratings. Furthermore, women reported more than men “that they would be willing to have a night with the most attractive person shown in the experiment”. There were no differences between male and female participants in their willingness to enter into a long-term relationship with the most attractive person shown in the experiment.
Marin noted that the results differed slightly from a previous study, published in 2017, which examined whether listening to music influenced assessments of facial attractiveness and desire for dating.
“Our past and current results indicated marked differences with regard to the observed gender effects,” says Marin. “In the previous study, music was not directly related to facial stimuli when the stimuli were presented one after the other. In this case, music only significantly influenced women in evaluating male faces. Music did not significantly affect men.”
“In the current study, we told participants that the music was played by the person in the photograph (thus establishing a direct link between the music and the face). In the female group, we observed an effect of music on attractiveness and courtship scores. This result for the female group is similar to that of the previous study. However, the male group in the current study also reported an increase in the desire to date after exposure to music, while facial attractiveness was unaffected.
In summary, these findings suggest that gender differences may depend on the underlying mechanism of how music affects facial perception and the desire to date in a mating context. Gaining a better understanding of these gender differences will be a challenge for future research.”
The results provide three important conclusions: first, more and more Empirical evidence in favor of Darwin’s hypothesis of sexual selection in musicality. This shows that old theories should not be overlooked or even abandoned in current academic debates about the origins of music, unless evidence to the contrary prevails.
Second, musicality and having listened to music can influence the perception of attractiveness of faces of the opposite sex and the desire to date, especially among women. Men seem to be less influenced by music when evaluating female faces.
Finally, more generally, the results obtained in the laboratory are in line with many previous studies on other social issues that show that music may be able to influence the way we perceive and act towards others in the real-life social context. .
The experiment makes an important contribution to our understanding of the psychological mechanisms associated with musicality. However, it should be noted that the experiment was carried out with a very small group of participants and that they were university students, Europeans and singles. Results obtained in people of different ages and cultural backgrounds, as well as studies focused on long-term relationships, can produce different results. However, in the context of Darwin’s theory, large differences in the overall effect of music on mate choice are not expected.
“Music is part of all human cultures”, adds the researcher. “As music psychologists, we are trying to better understand how music affects our feelings and thoughts, as well as our behavior. Our field of research continues to grow around the world.”