Listening to complex, arousing music may cause women to find men more attractive, according to a new study. Researchers presented images of the opposite sex to roughly 100 men and women, and found that women rated male images as “more attractive” when they were listening to a series of complex 19th century piano solos. Men, however, were unaffected. The findings suggest that music may have originated as a sort of mating ritual for humans, a theory first suggested by Darwin.
“There are currently few empirical findings that support Darwin’s theory on the origin of music,” coauthor on the study Manuela Marin of the University of Vienna said in a statement. “We wanted to use a new experimental paradigm to investigate the role of music in choosing a mating partner”
Leder and colleagues had an itch they felt they needed to scratch. That itch was nothing less than the reasons for the origin of music itself. Charles Darwin’s evolutionary theory for music is that it “developed through sexual selection”. In other words, the ability to make music is an indicator of superior motor and cognitive skills—and superior motor and cognitive skills mean superior babies. Leder set out to test this theory, while also testing a prevalent theory that “arousal transfer” can only occur when stimuli are processed one after another. (That is, viewing a cheeseburger advertisement and then walking by a cheeseburger restaurant leads to cheeseburger purchase and ingestion and major, major cheeseburger satisfaction).
So they gathered a small sample of 64 women and 32 men, and split the women by whether they were in the fertile or infertile stages of their menstrual cycles. The researchers played “sexy music” (obscure piano solos, but we’re betting “Moonage Daydream” by David Bowie on repeat would have had the same effect) and then immediately asked each participant to rate the attractiveness of a headshot of a member of the opposite sex. Researchers found that there were no significant differences between the non-fertile and fertile groups and, surprisingly, that the “arousal transfer” effect was not present in men. While women tended to find men more attractive after listening to arousing music, men did not have the same reaction to the stimuli. (Can you believe it? How can you deny the effects of “How Does it Feel” by D’Angelo?)
“Our goal is to replicate these results in a larger sample,” Leder said in the statement. The team also hopes to “clarify whether musical abilities and creativity can compensate partially for deficiencies in terms of physical appearance and fitness.” Of course, simply playing Marvin Gaye all night long won’t make you a sex god in the eyes of your wife.
But it definitely won’t hurt.