Researchers at the University of Amsterdam (UvA) have demonstrated how much the brain can learn simply through active exposure to many different kinds of music. “More and more labs are showing that people have the sensitivity for skills that we thought were only expert skills,” Henkjan Honing (UvA) explains.
“It turns out that mere exposure makes an enormous contribution to how musical competence develops.”* The results were recently presented at the Music & Language conference, organized by Tufts University in Boston, and will be published in an upcoming issue of the Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Performance and Perception.
The common view among music scientists is that musical abilities are shaped mostly by intense musical training, and that they remain rather rough in untrained listeners, the so-called Expertise hypothesis.
However, the UvA-study shows that listeners without formal musical training, but with sufficient exposure to a certain musical idiom (the Exposure hypothesis), perform similarly in a musical task when compared to formally trained listeners.
Furthermore, the results show that listeners generally do better in their preferred musical genre. As such the study provides evidence for the idea that some musical capabilities are acquired through mere exposure to music. Just listen and learn!
In addition, the study is one of the first that takes advance of the possibilities of online listening experiments comparing musicians and non-musicians of all ages.
*Eichler, J. (2008, July 13), ‘Can’t get it out of my head’, Boston Globe, p. N6.
- Honing, H., & Ladinig, O. Exposure influences expressive timing judgments in music. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Performance and Perception, DOI: 10.1037/a0012732
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