12 Music and Cognitive Abilities E. Glenn Schellenberg and Michael W. Weiss Department of Psychology, University of Toronto, Mississauga, Ontario, Canada
In this chapter, we review the available evidence concerning associations between music and cognitive abilities. We use the term “cognitive abilities” to refer to all aspects of cognition (e.g., memory, language, visuospatial abilities) including general intelligence. We use the term “music” as an all-encompassing one that includes music aptitude, music listening, and music lessons, and we use the term “associations” because it does not imply causation. Our focus is on documented associations—regardless of the direction of causation—between cognitive abilities, on the one hand, and music aptitude, music listening, and music lessons, on the other. In each case, we examine the possibility of a causal relationship between music and cognition. The chapter is divided into four main sections: music aptitude and cognitive abilities, cognitive abilities after music listening (the so-called Mozart effect), background music and cognitive abilities (i.e., cognitive abilities while listening to music), and music training and cognitive abilities (i.e., cognitive abilities as a function of music training). Our review focuses on articles published in English with behavioral outcome measures. Links between music and brain function or structure are discussed in Chapters 13 and 14 (this volume).
Music Aptitude and Cognitive Abilities
Music aptitude refers to natural music abilities or the innate potential to succeed as a musician. One school of thought (e.g., Ericsson, Krampe, & Tesch-Ro¨mer, 1993; Howe, Davidson, & Sloboda, 1998) contends that innate music talent (i.e., aptitude plus a demonstrated ability to perform music) does not account for variations in levels of musicality. Rather, expert levels can be achieved by anyone who starts early enough and works hard enough. In short, practice makes perfect (cf. Meinz & Hambrick, 2010). The debate about the existence of music talent or aptitude is beyond the scope of the present chapter. We assume that music aptitude exists, that it varies among individuals, and that aptitude is something that tests of music The Psychology of Music. DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/B978-0-12-381460-9.00012-2 © 2013 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
E. Glenn Schellenberg and Michael W. Weiss
aptitude measure. Although this definition is circular, our principal focus is on whether tests of music aptitude measure an ability that is independent of or associated with other cognitive abilities. The issue of music aptitude as an ability distinct from other cognitive abilities is closely related to concepts of modularity (Fodor, 1983; Peretz, 2009; Peretz & Coltheart, 2003) and multiple intelligences (Gardner, 1983, 1999). The notion of modularity proposes that (1) the brain has specialized modules for processing different kinds of information, (2) domain-specific information (re: language, faces, music, and so on) is processed automatically by the appropriate module, and (3) each module functions independently of other modules (Fodor, 1983). Gardner (1983, 1999) posits similarly that intelligence is a multidimensional construct. In the original formulation of his theory of multiple intelligences, he specified seven distinct intelligences: bodily-kinesthetic, interpersonal, intrapersonal, linguistic, logical-mathematical, spatial, and most importantly, musical intelligence. From either the modularity or multiple intelligences perspective, music aptitude should be distinct from other abilities. The typical task on tests of music aptitude involves presenting two short melodies (or two short rhythms) on each trial. Listeners are asked whether the second melody (or rhythm) is the same as or different from the first. After several trials, a score is calculated separately for each test. An aggregate score can also be calculated by