Austrian scientists have made a discovery that's likely to arrive as welcome news to readers of MusicRadar, the internet's most popular site for musicians: being a musician really does make you more attractive to members of the opposite sex.
The study, published in Frontiers in Psychology, was aimed at exploring the evolutionary origins of musicality. Researchers were hoping to test the validity of Charles Darwin's theory of sexual selection, which proposes that certain traits - such as musicality - are passed down to the next generation because they help us attract mates, not because they help us survive directly.
“Musical notes and rhythm”, Darwin wrote in The Descent of Man, “were first acquired by the male and female progenitors of mankind for the sake of charming the opposite sex.” He believed that music acts as a courtship display in our search for a reproductive partner, and could signal biological fitness and good genes by displaying advanced motor skills and cognitive ability to potential partners.
The psychological study, titled "Darwin’s sexual selection hypothesis revisited: Musicality increases sexual attraction in both sexes", seems to confirm Darwin's suspicions that musicality makes you more attractive. Researchers conducted the experiment on a sample of 23 male and 35 female psychology students, all of whom were heterosexual.
Participants were shown numerous images that depicted the faces of members of the opposite sex and played recordings of solo piano music at the same time. They were told that the music they were hearing had been played by the person whose face they were looking at, and then they were asked to rate the faces on how sexually attractive they were, and how likely they were to go on a date, have a one-night stand or begin a long-term relationship with the person in question.
The results from this test were then compared with a control group, who viewed and rated faces without any suggestion that the people depicted were musicians. Researchers found that both men and women rated faces in the first, musical group as more desirable for long-term dating, but only female participants rated the 'musical' faces as more sexually attractive than the control group.
The researchers concluded that "musicality [...] can influence the perception of attractiveness of opposite-sex faces and dating desirability mostly among females. Males appear to be less influenced by music when rating female faces.”
“Music is part of every human culture,” they continued. “As music psychologists, we try to get a better understanding of how music affects our feelings and thoughts as well as our behaviour. Our research field keeps growing worldwide.”