As part of our ongoing inquiry into the evolutionary origins of music, we’ve noted a line of research that links altruistic behavior with synchronized sounds. A study from England found eight- to 11-year-olds who made music together were also more compassionate than their peers. Another from Germany found four-year-olds who had sung and marched together were more likely to help one another pick up spilled marbles.
New Canadian research presents further evidence of this dynamic—and finds it applies at a much younger age. Even at 14 months, it seems, infants are more likely to offer help to an adult they’ve just met if their first encounter involved rhythmically swaying in sync.
The findings suggest moving together to music cements social bonds, and “may promote the very early development of altruistic behavior,” writes McMaster University researchers Laurel Trainor, Laura Cirelli, and Kathleen Einarson. Their study is published in the journal Developmental Science.
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