The researchers found out that we measure how pleasant a sound is to the ratio of dissonance that we perceive, which provides a degree of "roughness, harshness, unpleasantness, or difficulty of listening to a sound." When listeners in the study (even trained professionals) were played a chord they never heard before, they found it impossible to hear the individual notes that it was comprised of, and therefore it sounded dissonant and unpleasant. After the listeners where trained to identify the pitches present in the chords, they found it less objectionable, even if the chord was technically inharmonious.
It turns out that if we're raised around music based around a certain scale, we come to find that more pleasing than one that we're not exposed to. The Western 12 note "do-re-me" scale is a good example. It was mathematically derived by Pythagorus and not particularly natural, but Westerners adopted it and eventually found it beautiful, yet we have a hard time with semi-tone scales of Indian ragas or Arabic quarter tone intervals.
It's also the reason why a kid who grows up in a house with classical or jazz always playing in the background develops a love for that music, as opposed to someone growing up in a house filled with rock or hip hop.
As with so many other factors, our early environment forms our musical tastes for life. Remember that the next time you play music around your kids.
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