Influencing factors of Music’s effect

July 27, 2009

Part III: Style
Music’s benefits are vast. It can adapt mood, adapt positive thinking, strengthen survival skills, and sympathy (Leeds, 2003). These are among the improvements that music can make on peoples lives. All music genres have significant implications for the mind. Dr. Alfred Tomatis’ research on the workings of the inner ear were undoubtedly the precursor for the focus on Mozart’s music and spatial reasoning. Tomatis focused on Mozart’s music namely the violin concertos numbers 3 and 4 as having the strongest ability to positively effect students capacity to focus and concentrate. Music can have a positive or negative effect on spatial performance tasks. Sutton and Lowis found that when music is sad (often minor in composition) it can make the listener sad, and depressed people show impairment in spatial tasks because depression effects the arousal in the right cerebral hemisphere of the brain which is associated with cognitive spatial processing. Overall, the Sutton-Lowis study showed that cheerful music enhances spatial reasoning more than sad music, and that this is because music elicits and emotional response. They also found that the degree to which and emotional response is elicited is similar in both men and women.

In a 1995 experiment done by Rausher, Shaw, and Ky, their work suggested that listening to a piano sonata composed by Mozart lead to increased spatial reasoning performance. They also found that listening to repetitive music does not aide in spatial reasoning. These findings are in correlation with Shaw’s statements, “We suspect that complex music facilitates certain complex neuronal patterns involved in high brain activities like math and chess. By contrast, simple and repetitive music could have the opposite effect.” Shaw suggests a possibility that banal music or sounds may have and adverse effect on the mind and brain functions. Just as highly intricate music containing complicated melodies and rhythms have a positive effect on he mind’s ability to reason spatially, simple, repetitive, monotonous music may have the opposite effect on the mind’s ability to reason spatially. The latter may actually regress the mind’s ability, if even for short periods of time.

Age Matters

It is found that the impact music has on spatial reasoning only last from 10 to 15 minutes in adults. This is a temporary effect. However, it can have cumulative effects concurrently. Therefore, the more you make use of this phenomenon the more readily and quicker it will manifest. It is also of note, that the younger the individual is when in a musical environment, the longer the effect has been shown to last (Schellenberg, 2005). It is apparent that music has a cumulative effect because the younger the person is when introduced to music the longer potential they have to hold on to the benefits of this phenomenon. Schellenberg noted that the phenomenon looses its longevity the later in life it begins to be implemented. He also said that the more it is used (even later in life) the greater its magnitude for positive results. Though listening is sufficient to prime the brain for a boost in spatial tasks performance, learning to play the music is significant in perpetuating longer lasting effects (Schellenberg, 2005). In a correlative test of 147 children and 150 undergraduate adults, (using the Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children-III, or WISC-III and the Wechsler Adult Intelligences Scale-III, or WAIS-III respectively) Schellenberg concluded that the effects of music on cognitive abilities are greater with more exposure to music regularly and can be long lasting.

To musician or to non-musician
Though differences in certain cognitive functions between musicians and non-musicians exist, the differences between the two in terms of spatial reasoning did not favor the musicians according to Brandler and Rammsayer (2003). Researchers were surprised to find this to be the case, but hold their finding as reliable as these results were consistently shown by four Cattell’s Culture Free Intelligence Test, Scale 3 (CFT) subscales. In explanation, that they warn is “a preliminary, highly speculative, possible explanation “, they suggest that perhaps our thinking of relegating music to the right hemisphere (because music stimulates the right brain more than the left brain) of the brain should be revised. It is certain that highly skilled musicians utilize both the right and left brains to carry out their musical lifestyles. However, the memory aspect of their mind may dominate over the reason part. This is indicative of a diverse array of mental abilities in musicians and contrasted by a stronger yet more base mental ability in non-musicians. Therefore, “early extensive musical training” results in a change to the cortical organization. This augments the left brain functions of the musician, while diminishing the innate musical abilities of the right brain.  This is reminiscent of how in Western education, schooling may lead to strengthening the left brain while neglecting the right brain.

Sounds of Sex
Though there were differences between certain cognitive functions between men and women, the differences in spatial reasoning between the two groups was not significant in the Sutton-Lowis experiment. Sutton and Lowis are interested in determining the differences between sexes when they listen to music on both their verbal and spatial reasoning skills. Overall, they tout that music has an ability to increase spatial and verbal reasoning, and their data supports this claim. However, the most significant correlation was found between women and verbal reasoning. Though the other sectors had over all improvement, their amount of improvement were nominal in comparison to the increase found with women in verbal reasoning. Their study is particularly noteworthy because there is a severe lack of research on the differences of how the sexes are effected by music. Sutton and Lowis found that the degree to which an emotional response is elicited is similar in both men and women.

References available in Part VI

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