When singers raise eyebrows (and how that’s interpreted)

When singers sing high notes, their eyebrows go higher than when they sing low notes. While that may not be an absolute physiological rule, a team of Danish and American researchers discovered that it happens pretty consistently. They lay out the evidence, and explain what it may mean, in a study called Facial Expression and Vocal Pitch Height: Evidence of an Intermodal Association, published in 2009 in the journal, Empirical Musicology Review.

When scientists tackle a new question, they begin with the knowledge that finding the answer – if there is an answer – might entail lengthy, slogging effort. Some questions take years to settle. Some take decades. The eyebrow/high-note evidence comes from “an experiment lasting less than one minute”.

Sofia Dahl [pictured here] at Aalborg University Copenhagen, and David Huron and Randolph Johnson at Ohio State University, ran their experiment 44 times, each with a different volunteer….

So begins this week’s Improbable Research column in The Guardian.

BONUS: Next week Sofia Dahl will perform in the Ig Nobel tour of Scandinavia, explaining this very topic.