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It's Not Your Genes' Fault You Like ABBA

Nurture may have more of a role than nature in shaping what music a person prefers, Nature News reports.

A paper appearing in Nature this week from a Brandeis University-led team of researchers examined whether people of a native Amazonian society who had limited exposure to Western music and city-dwelling Bolivians liked or disliked certain sounds. Previous theories suggested that there might be a biological explanation for a preference for consonant over dissonant sounds, though other research noted that consonance is most common in Western music.

In this study, Brandeis's Ricardo Godoy and his team report that the Amazonian Tsimane' people found consonant and dissonant chords and vocal harmonies equally pleasant, while Bolivians living in cities and towns preferred consonance, though not to the extent that people in the US do.

This, the researchers say, indicates that culture over genetics shapes what music people like. "Culture plays a role. We like the music we grew up with," Dale Purves, a neurobiologist at Duke University, tells Nature News. He notes, though, that most everything is a combination of nature and nurture, not one over the other.