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Music production and its role in coalition signaling during foraging contexts in a hunter-gatherer society

Chittar, CR; Jang, H; Samuni, L; Lewis, J; Honing, H; Loon, EEV; Janmaat, KRL; (2023) Music production and its role in coalition signaling during foraging contexts in a hunter-gatherer society. Frontiers in Psychology , 14 , Article 1218394. 10.3389/fpsyg.2023.1218394. Green open access

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Abstract

Music is a cultural activity universally present in all human societies. Several hypotheses have been formulated to understand the possible origins of music and the reasons for its emergence. Here, we test two hypotheses: (1) the coalition signaling hypothesis which posits that music could have emerged as a tool to signal cooperative intent and signal strength of alliances and (2) music as a strategy to deter potential predators. In addition, we further explore the link between tactile cues and the propensity of mothers to sing toward infants. For this, we investigated the singing behaviors of hunter-gatherer mothers during daily foraging trips among the Mbendjele BaYaka in the Republic of the Congo. Although singing is a significant component of their daily activities, such as when walking in the forest or collecting food sources, studies on human music production in hunter-gatherer societies are mostly conducted during their ritual ceremonies. In this study, we collected foraging and singing behavioral data of mothers by using focal follows of five BaYaka women during their foraging trips in the forest. In accordance with our predictions for the coalition signaling hypothesis, women were more likely to sing when present in large groups, especially when group members were less familiar. However, predictions of the predation deterrence hypothesis were not supported as the interaction between group size and distance from the village did not have a significant effect on the likelihood of singing. The latter may be due to limited variation in predation risk in the foraging areas, because of the intense bush meat trade, and hence, future studies should include foraging areas with higher densities of wild animals. Lastly, we found that mothers were more likely to sing when they were carrying infants compared to when infants were close, but carried by others, supporting the prediction that touch plays an important prerequisite role in musical interaction between the mother and child. Our study provides important insight into the role of music as a tool in displaying the intent between or within groups to strengthen potentially conflict-free alliances during joint foraging activities.

Type: Article
Title: Music production and its role in coalition signaling during foraging contexts in a hunter-gatherer society
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
DOI: 10.3389/fpsyg.2023.1218394
Publisher version: https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2023.1218394
Language: English
Additional information: This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License. The images or other third-party material in this article are included in the Creative Commons license, unless indicated otherwise in the credit line; if the material is not included under the Creative Commons license, users will need to obtain permission from the license holder to reproduce the material. To view a copy of this license, visit http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/
Keywords: Music, foraging, coalition signaling, less familiar, predation, hunter-gatherer
UCL classification: UCL
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH > Faculty of S&HS
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH > Faculty of S&HS > Dept of Anthropology
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10183278
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