Researchers at the Max Planck Institute for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences in Leipzig, Germany, claim people of different cultures from all over the world respond the same way when listening to music that is somewhat emotional, according to U.S. News & World Report.

In other words, according to the Max Planck folks, people in – say – Thailand, Russia and Bakersfield react the same way when confronted with a syrupy love ballad, a sports team fight song, or a rip roaring rocker.

As part of their study, researchers traveled to northern Cameroon and asked members of the Mafa ethnic group to participate in some listening experiments.

The Mafa members listened to computer-generated piano music containing different tempos, pitch ranges and rhythms while a group of Westerners listened to samples of Mafa music.

When the groups were asked to rate their listening experiences as pleasant or unpleasant, members of both groups recognized the same three emotions – happy, sad and scared or fearful.

Dana Strait, who wasn’t involved with the study, but does know more about it than most of us and is a doctoral candidate in the Auditory Neuroscience Laboratory at Northwestern University, said:

“There are fundamental acoustic features that communicate basic emotions similarly in both speech and music. Much of the meaning we get from music is not so much reliant on musical structure, but rather how it – the music – is performed. It’s the same with speech – it’s not the actual words spoken, but more how they’re said that communicates emotion.”

The study will be posted online in the March 19 issue of Current Biology.

For the U.S. News & World Report article, click here.

For the Current Biology site, click here.