The Loh Down On Science

How goldfish feel about music will interest you

Shinozuka et al., Beh. Proc., 2013.

Fig. 7. The results of Experiment 2A. The vertical axis indicates the ratio of staying time in the test sessions to that during the baseline sessions. Values above 1.0 imply that the subject preferred that area more strongly during the test sessions than during the baseline sessions. Three of the six subjects (Fish 1, 4, and 6) did not show any preferences. Fish 2 preferred the silent area but tended to avoid the Bach area. Fish 3 tended to avoid the Stravinsky area. Fish 5 preferred the Stravinsky area and avoided the Bach area. Bars represent mean (SD).

It's obvious that songbirds have musical ability.  But fish?

This is Sandra Tsing Loh with the Loh Down on Science, saying it's true.

Researchers at Japan’s Keio University have found that goldfish can tell one composer from another.

The scientists played music by two composers near a fish tank. They trained half the fish to nibble on a bead hanging in the tank when they heard classical music—Bach's Toccata in Fugue.  They trained the other half to nibble when they heard modern music—Stravinsky's Rite of Spring. When tested later, the fish chose the composer they were trained for, showing that they could distinguish between the properties of each piece of music.

The scientists had earlier trained sparrows on the same task with similar results.  The birds, however, seemed to prefer Bach over Stravinsky.  The researchers think this might be due to the tonal complexity and dissonance in the more modern Stravinsky works.

The experimenters did not rule out that it might be possible to tailor music to please animals.

By far the fish’s favorite music?  Scales!  Sorry.  Couldn’t resist.

***** For more 90-SECOND SCIENCE FACTS, click here.*****

The Loh Down on Science is produced by LDOS Media Lab, in partnership with the University of California, Irvine, and 89.3 KPCC. And made possible by the generous support of the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation.


blog comments powered by Disqus