This article reports on a study by MIT and the Max Planck Institute for Empirical Aesthetics, examining how different cultures perceive rhythm. The study found that while the human brain favors rhythms with simple integer ratios, the preferred ratios vary significantly across cultures. This variation highlights the influence of cultural exposure on our perception of rhythm.

The research included participants from 15 countries, providing a broad picture of rhythmic biases. In every group tested, people tended to produce rhythms with simple integer ratios, but the specific ratios differed depending on cultural backgrounds. This suggests a universal aspect of rhythm perception with significant cross-cultural variation.

One interesting finding is that traditional societies showed different rhythmic biases compared to Western participants. For instance, people from North America and Western Europe, exposed to similar music types, generated rhythms with the same ratios, while participants from Turkey, Mali, Bulgaria, and Botswana favored different rhythms consistent with their musical traditions.

The study also reveals a mechanism in the brain that aids in music perception and production by mentally correcting performance errors. This mechanism helps maintain musical consistency, ensuring that small mistakes do not disrupt the musical system. The researchers plan to expand their studies to further explore music perception across different cultures​ .