Saturday, October 22, 2011

Music and Cognition 1

I've been thinking a lot about the information that I have been reading about in my cognitive psychology class and how it relates to music. This might be a little discursive but it is honestly all I can think about.

One cognitive theory states that people with higher working memories actually mind wonder more than those with lower working memory abilities. This is because they have a cognitive capacity available that is beyond what is required for a certain task. My theory is that these are the people who can listen to music and do homework at the same time, and claim that it helps them concentrate. Music helps them concentrate because they cognitive capacity that otherwise would not have been fulfilled by the task and is fulfilled by the music, and hence they do not mind wonder as much -- they are more concentrated.
Another general theory is that of automaticity. When you do something over and over again it becomes second nature and when you think about it, it actually makes you do worse! (Totally what happened to me at my first trumpet recital). Anyone that plays an instrument can tell you that once you have something down, don't think about it, just do it.
In a study done by Scheider & Shiffrin their participants went through 2,100 detection trials (looking for the same visual targets in a display -- kind of like a word search). By the 600th trial the accuracy rates were over 80%. After the researchers then switched the targets and had them search for the targets that were the distraction targets in the previous trials. It took the participants 2,400 trials to match the accuracy level that before only took them 600 trials to achieve. This relates to music because when you learn and practice a note wrong or practice with a bad technique it takes even longer to relearn it the correct way.

Question: What does attention, automaticity, and relearning effects tell us about the philosophy of music?

Re: Kristina's "Personal music"

In Kristina's post, "Personal Music" she ends with the question "Does a personal connection to music speak to the aesthetics of that piece in anyway, or merely to the listener, or the performer?"

In order to answer this question accurately we must first determine if aesthetic qualities are merely perceptions or if they are physical manifestations that we perceive. The distinction being that the beauty is in our minds or in the aesthetic work itself.
If we are to go with the first idea, then yes a personal connection to a musical piece may change the aesthetics of it. People enjoy the music that they grew up listening to. Perhaps this serves as an explanation as to why we have a connection to the music that we have listened to throughout our lives -- because it symbolizes our life. Music seems as though it can have the same connection to memory as scents do. One "wiff" so to say, can send you back to another time. A song can remind you of a specific person or time in your life. My brother likes to make mixed CDs for his car, and whenever he makes a new one he titles it whatever the current month and year is, as if he is marking that CD with the time in his life. Does the music we listen to at any point in our lives say anything about us at that particular moment? We all have memories of childhood that deal with pop culture such as remembering that we used to collect Pokemon cards and Bennie Babies, or remembering when "Who Let the Dogs Out" was first played on the radio.
If we go with the second idea, that the aesthetic value is in the work itself, then no, the aesthetics of that piece will not change. With this theory, something's aesthetic value cannot increase or decrease if the external properties do not change. If a connection is made and there is an increase in its appeal to the listener, then it may be the memory that the song is tied to rather than the song itself that adds liking to the piece.

Question: Are aesthetics in our mind or physical properties?