Prenatal and infant conditioning, the mother schema, and the origins of music and religion
Parncutt, R. (2009). Prenatal and infant conditioning, the mother schema, and the origins of music and religion. Musicae Scientiae, Special issue 2009-2010, 119-150.
Existing theories of the origins of music and religion fail to account directly and convincingly for their universal emotional power and behavioural costliness. The theory of prenatal origins is based on empirically observable phenomena and involves prenatal classical conditioning, postnatal operant conditioning and the adaptive value of mother-infant bonding. The human fetus can perceive sound and acceleration from gestational week 20. The most salient sounds for the fetus are internal to the mother's body and associated with vocalisation, blood circulation, impacts (footfalls), and digestion. The protomusical sensitivity of infants may be based on prenatal associations between the mother s changing physical and emotional state and concomitant changes in both hormone levels in the placental blood and prenatally audible sound/movement patterns. Protomusical aspects of motherese, play and ritual may have emerged during a multigenerational process of operational conditioning on the basis of prenatally established associations among sound, movement and emotion. The infant's multimodal cognitive representation of its mother (mother schema) begins to develop before birth and may underlie music's personal qualities, religion's supernatural agents, and the link between the two. Prenatal theory can contribute to an explanation of musical universals such as specific features of rhythm and melody and associations between music and body movement, as well as universal commonalities of musical and religious behaviour and experience such as meaning, fulfilment, and altered states of consciousness. ...