Learning and Music - Interactive Learning Exercises

Try it Yourself! Apply Your Knowledge Edit

Ok, it's time to put your knowledge to the test! Let's see what you've learned about language, music, and what happens when we combine the two. Try Part 1 to remind yourself about the basic psychology of language and music. Attempt to complete the whole section without looking at the main page (unless you get really stumped!), then move on to Part 2 for a fun exercise on advertising. See how adding a catchy melody to a slogan can make the product stick in peoples' minds! In Part 3, you can test the effects of music, language and memory on your own friends and family. See how your results compare with the current research.

Part 1 - What Have You Learned? (The Basics) Edit

Try to answer these questions to see how much you can remember, and how much you've learned about language and music. Try to complete the section without referring back to the main page, but if you get stuck you may need to refresh your memory here

  • For both language and music, list:
a) Basic sound units
b) "Vocabulary" used
c) Function and/or purpose

  • Define "generativity", and:
a) Justify why the generativity of both language and music has been deemed infinite.
b) Explain how culture plays a role in each one

  • Describe the similarities and differences between Broca's Area and Wernicke's Area, and explain why each is important for language and speech

  • Explain how early exposure to music training may affect an individual's memory. Does this earlier exposure seem in aid or inhibit memory development?

  • List one important brain area used in the process of:
a) Listening to music
b) Playing music
c) Processing both language and music

Part 2 - See For Yourself Edit

Music intensifies every aspect of an advertisement, and gives a sense of stimulation to the viewer or listener that helps cement the message of the ad itself (Hecker, 1984). Many times, you likely find yourself humming a song or jingle from a well-known advertisement, realizing that the tune is stuck in your head. Naturally, this is what the advertisers want: an easily identifiable way of helping you remember their product. This is just one more example of how powerful the combination of music and language can be.

In order to test out this concept, make a list of several well-known radio and television commercials with familiar "theme songs". Try humming the tune for the product slogan to your friends and family, and see if they can recite the line back to you. Chances are, they will know the tune, phrase product, and even the company responsible for the ad.

Use the table below as a starting point, and try to fill in a selection of ads you come across. The first line shows an example of how to use the table:

Product Name Company Tv/Radio? Slogan # Correctly identified? # incorrectly identified?
Product 'A' cb inc. Radio No one beats the taste of cb! 10 2

Follow-up questions:
a) Did your results support the concept relating music and language?
b) Were people able to correctly identify the slogans?
c) If you were an advertiser, would this influence your decision to ad music to your slogan?

Essay Topic
d) Research the different cognitive or neuroscientific theories surrounding the link between language, memory and music (ie: why does music help people remember?):

i) List the theories
ii) List the researchers involved
iii) List supporting evidence for each theory
iv) Has any contradictory evidence been discovered? What was it, and how did it affect the theory?
v) Which theory do you feel is the most likely? Explain.

Try performing the experiment the other way around...if you tell people a product slogan, would they be able to hum the jingle that goes along?

Another twist on this experiment that you can try is to write a sentence out on paper. Try to make the sentence long enough that it is not easy to remember the first time you hear it. Now show a few people this sentence, read it to them, and see if they can remember it 15 minutes later. Using the same sentence, add a tune to the words, and sing it to a different people. Again, see if they can sing it back to you 15 minutes later. Which group was more successful?

Hecker, S. (1984), Music for advertising effect. Psychology and Marketing, 1: 3–8. doi: 10.1002/mar.4220010303

Part 3 - Perform Your Own Experiment Edit

If you would like to try an experiment (somewhat similar to the one presented by Steven Smith, 1985), you will need three sets of test subjects (or you may perform the experiment as a within-subjects design, meaning you will simply need extra lists of words). Create a list of words (30 words), and present each individual in each set with the same list. One group will be in a room with music playing while they study the list of words for 3 minutes, the second group in a silent room, and the third group in a room with ambient noise (ex: background television, etc.). After the list of words has been presented for 3 minutes, give the individuals a 10 minute break, then return them to the same room with the same conditions as they had been in previously. Ask them to write out as many of the words as they can remember, and see which group (under which conditions) is able to remember the most words.

To alter the experiment slightly, try keeping some groups the same for testing (i.e: learning and testing both occur in a silent room), while other groups change (learning in a room with music playing, but testing in a silent room).
Which combination seems to produce the optimal conditions for learning and recall?
Why do you think this might be?
Is there any possibility of a deleterious effect?.

Smith, S. (1985). Background Music and Context-Dependent Memory. The American Journal of Psychology. 98(4): 591-603.

Part 4 - Essay Questions Edit

The following questions are to be answered in essay format. It will be helpful to use the other chapters from the *Psycholinguistics homepage in formulating your answers

1) Explain the basic symptoms and problems associated with amusia. How is amusia similar/different from aphasia, acalculia, and alexia?

2) For each item in the following list, explain how it compares with music in terms of innate (inborn) abilities, and level of generativity:

i) Mathematics
ii) Prosody/Emotion and expression
iii) Gesture/Body Language

3) How do the neural components of speech production and writing compare with those of playing, writing and singing in music?

i) Which areas of the brain are used in both?
ii) Which key areas of the brain are different, and what different skills require the addition of this different brain structure?
iii) Which brain areas are affected when we see deficits in the production of each?
iv) How is speech perception similar to musical perception? How is it different?
v) Is there a musical deficit equivalent to dyslexia? What is it, and how does it affect an individual (internal/cognitive AND external/behavioural processes)

4) If music is culturally-based, at what age can children discriminate between music that is familiar or unfamiliar to their own culture?

i) What processes cause this?
ii) How is this similar to second language acquisition (ie: how does age affect a child's ability to quickly learn the music (or language) of a foreign country)?

5) Try to imagine you are teaching someone to read and play music:

i) Can you identify the music equivalent for each of the synthetic methods of reading (alphabet method, synthetic phonic method, syllable method)?
ii) Try to do the same for the analytic methods of reading (word method, sentence method, phrase method).
iii) For each method that you found a musical comparison, list why (or why not) you think it would be effective in teaching music. Which method would you deem most effective?
iv) For the method you consider most effective in teaching music, compare this method to its uses in teaching reading. Would you still consider it the best choice? Why or why not?