INTEREST IN STUDYING THE EFFECTS of extensive music training on nonmusical perceptual and cognitive abilities has grown in recent years. Here, we present evidence that formal music instruction is associated with superior verbal and visual memory. Participants included 15 highly trained pianists and 21 individuals with little or no formal music training. The groups were comparable in terms of age, gender distribution, and socioeconomic status. Musicians showed superior immediate and delayed recall of word lists and greater use of a semantic clustering strategy during initial list-learning than nonmusicians. They also exhibited superior learning, delayed recall, and delayed recognition for visual designs. Group differences in delayed free recall of both words and designs persisted after controlling statistically for estimated Full Scale IQ. These results suggest that extensive music training is associated with a generalized enhancement of auditory and visual memory functions.
WHEN PROCESSING MUSIC STIMULI, MOST PEOPLE show a global bias (e.g., Evers et al., 1999). Extensive music training, however, develops both global (Halpern & Bower, 1982) and local (Burton et al., 1989) music processing abilities. Our goal was to determine whether enhancement of musicians' local processing abilities is domain-specific or extends to processing nonmusical, visual stimuli. Musicians outperformed nonmusicians on the Group Embedded Figures Test (Experiment 1) and on Block Design (Experiment 2). Additionally, musicians' ability to copy drawings of physically impossible objects accurately was also superior to that of nonmusicians (Experiment 2). These effects could not be accounted for by group differences in several demographic indicators (age, education, gender, or SES), or (in Experiment 2) in verbal intelligence. The results provide converging evidence that extensive music training is specifically associated with superior visual processing of local details, beyond any benefits it may have on verbal intelligence.
Years of formal music training and proficiency at a nonmusical skill—— verbal recall——are surprisingly associated (e.g., A. R. Kilgour, L. S. Jakobson, & L. L. Cuddy, 2000). The present study proposes an indirect mechanism to account for this association. It is proposed that music training strengthens auditory temporal-order processing, and that temporalorder processing then mediates the relationship between years of music training and prose recall.