Music Training and Mental Imagery
Researchers at Utrecht University in the Netherlands studied the
effects of musical training on the ability of college students to
"hear" musical sounds without the actual presence of sound. This
skill is sometimes called audiation.
The researchers used two groups of college students. One group
had about five years of instrumental music training. The other
group had no formal musical training. The students then
performed two tests.
In the first test, the students were given the lyrics to a familiar
song. Two words were highlighted. Without hearing the song, the
students had to decide if the first word was higher or lower in pitch
than the second word. This test required the students to "hear" the
song in their mind and discriminate between the pitches of the words.
The music students scored significantly higher on this test than the
non-music students.
In the second test, the students were given sets of three cards. On
each card was listed an everyday sound. For example, one set of
three cards listed, "crying baby," "laughing baby," and "meowing
cat." The students had to choose the sound that was most different
from the others. (In the above example, the most different sound is
"laughing baby." "Crying baby" and "meowing cat" are similar.)
The music students also scored significantly higher on this test,
which did not directly involve musical skills.
Students with musical training may therefore have a greater
capability to process all sounds, including speech.
Source: "Music Training and Mental Imagery Ability." by
A. Alemean, M.R. Nieuwenstein, K.B.e. Bocker, and
E. H. F. de Haan. Published in Neuropsychologica,
Vol. 38 (2000), pp. 1664-1668.
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