Goldfish distinguish between Bach and Stravinsky for treats

Jennifer Viegas writes for Discovery news that, “Goldfish not only listen to music, but they also can distinguish one composer from another.”

I know from experience that harmonious music is calming to animals, including dogs, cats, birds, fish and people.  Bears would probably prefer music of the spheres so to speak, over that of humans.

Viegas reports on the new study conducted by lead author Kazutaka Shinozuka and colleagues of Keio University’s Department of Psychology:

For the study, published in the journal Behavioural Processes, Shinozuka and colleagues Haruka Ono and Shigeru Watanabe played two pieces of classical music near goldfish in a tank. The pieces were Toccata and Fugue in D minor by Johann Sebastian Bach and The Rite of Spring by Igor Stravinsky.

The scientists trained the fish to gnaw on a little bead hanging on a filament in the water. Half of the fish were trained with food to gnaw whenever Bach played and the other half were taught to gnaw whenever Stravinsky music was on. The goldfish aced the test, easily distinguishing the two composers and getting a belly full of food in the process.

The fish were more interested in the vittles than the music, but earlier studies on pigeons and songbirds suggest that Bach is the preferred choice, at least for birds.

“These pieces can be classified as classical (Bach) and modern (Stravinsky) music,” Shinozuka explained. “Previously we demonstrated that Java sparrows preferred classical over modern music. Also, we demonstrated Java sparrows could discriminate between consonance and dissonance.”

Click here to access full 2-page report.


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