University of Toronto
Course: MUS 2122H: Music and the Brain - Fall 2008
Instructor: Dr. Lee Bartel
Portfolio: reference, review, reflect and report.
ENTRIES 1 & 2
Article 1 Creating Creativity with Music
by Norman M. Weinberger, University of California
Volume V, Issue 2, Spring 1998
Article 2 Arts Education, The Brain, and Language (Scarborough Group, 2008)
by Kevin Niall Dunbar, Ph.D.
University of Toronto, at Scarborough
B- A SUMMARY OF THE CONTENT
Creating Creativity with Music
by Norman M. Weinberger, 1998
In this article, Norman M. Weinberger sets out to demonstrate how creativity can be measured objectively and how musical training can enhance intellectual creativity in general.
He begins by explaining how “the nature of creativity is a topic of intense current interest and also of great debate as many often ask if in fact creativity can be subject to scientific inquiry being its subjective nature?”
Weinberger then points out that different approaches to directly measure creativity have been developed over the years by individuals such as Guildford, Torrance and Amabile, each one having definite factors (or desirable characteristics) to evaluate creativity.
· Guildord’s “Unusual Uses” Tests
i. Ex: What are unusual uses for a brick? or What if no one could sleep?
· Torrance’s Tests of Creative Abilities
i. Ex: Sketch as many objects as possible given a set of blank circles.
· She added the collective judgments of widely regarded experts within the field in question to definite factors as: novel use of materials, novel ideas.
While various studies continue to dispute about how to best measure the highly desirable characteristics of creativity, Weinberger points out that other “controlled studies with well-reasoned arguments and not just anecdotal reports” have sought out to enhance creative thinking.
Among these, although few are published, are studies attempting to determine whether “music education affects measures of general creativity”. In other words, can music truly enhance creativity, as in expanding one’s intellectual boundaries?
Study 1- Simpson’s doctoral dissertation (unpublished), 1969.
· 173 high school music students and 45 non-music students.
· Tests devised by Guildford.
· Music students scored more highly than did non-music students on several measures of creativity.
· The findings are correlative (show a significant relationship between music and creativity), yet whether or not music education caused creativity scores to be enhanced cannot be determined from this report.
Study 2- Vaughn and Myers, 1971.
What is the necessary duration of music education to enhance creativity?
· Group: 4th and 5th graders.
· Created a special music program:
o Structured listening.
o Did not learn to play an instrument.
o Twice a week for three months.
· No differences found compared to a control class.
Study 3- Wolff (unpublished), 1979.
What is the youngest age at which music can increase creativity?
· 30 minutes of daily music instruction for an entire year, on first graders.
· At the beginning and end of the study, all students were tested on the Torrance tests of creative thinking and Purdue Perceptual.
· Music students exhibited significant increases in creativity.
· They also developed a significant increase in perceptual-motor skills.
· This study indicates that the creativity of children as young as first graders can be enhanced by music education, apparently if it is a sustained part of the curriculum rather than as a periodic addition to the school day for a few months.
Study 4- Magda Kalmar
What is the effect of music instruction on pre-school children of three and four years of age?
· A program was developed for a 3-year period.
· The music students scored higher than a non-treatment control class in creativity.
· They also had higher levels of ABSTRACTION and also showed GREATER CREATIVITY IN IMPROVISED PUPPET-PLAY.
· An additional benefit was better motor development.
· There were not yearly assessments therefore the exact age at which music was effective cannot be determined.
*Based on Wolff’s findings, it is unlikely that effects would require three years.
Studies 5 & 6- Kent State University
Measured the effects of music on the creativity of groups of high school and university students.
· This study determined the relationship between creativity and the total amount of music education, which was as high as more than 10 years.
· Higher creativity scores in music majors than non-music majors.
· These are correlative findings; no causal relationship can be inferred from these data.
· They discovered that students with more than 10 years of music education exhibited significantly greater creativity than those with less than 10 years of experience. These findings are quite consistent with the idea that creativity increases as a function of the amount of music education.
Study 7 -Hamann et al
Measured the effects of music on the creativity of high school students, whose experiences included theatrical and visual arts.
· Music students exhibit greater creativity than non-music students.
· Theatre students also scored significantly higher.
· Again, the issue of possible causality was approached by determining the relationship between length of music education and creativity scores, based on the number of academic units of music classes.
· A statistically significant relationship was observed; the greater the number of units, the greater the creativity scores.
From these studies, Weinberger concludes that the findings:
· Provide a solid support for the claim that music can be an effective means of increasing one’s creativity.
· Demonstrate increases in perceptual motor skills and in higher levels of abstraction.
· Demonstrate that active music making is more effective than passive music experience.
Arts Education, The Brain, and Language (Scarborough group- 2008)
by Kevin Niall Dunbar, Ph.D.
University of Toronto, at Scarborough
In his research, Dunbar set out to bring forth a study that would “test specific hypothesis instead of vague and general claims about the effects of a performing arts education”. In doing so, he investigated two main areas.
He set out to determine whether there are “cognitive differences” between performing arts students in music and in theatre and non-performing arts students and to discover what the brain-based differences are that underlie the cognitive difference.
This was done by investigating performance on a variety of reasoning tasks such as generating novel and creative concepts, and being able to map information from one context to another, very different, context. This is known as transfer.
In doing so, he would discover whether education in the performing arts influences “abstract reasoning ability” and do those students in arts performance reason differently from non-arts students.
He also investigated whether there were differences in brain activity patterns of those students who were exposed to performing arts education and those who were not by using functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI). In doing so, he would see if there were posited specific neural mechanisms that might be involved in these improvements, if any.
He set out to determine whether arts students are intrinsically different from non-arts students by comparing performing-arts students’ genetic makeup to non-performing arts students’ genetic makeup. That is, are there differences due to underlying genetic differences that predispose students to prefer and chose the performing arts rather than other areas of education.
Overall, there are some differences at both the behavioural and genetic levels.
At the neural level, differences were found between the performing arts students and non-performing arts students in first year.
In particular, there were differences in left hemisphere frontal lobe activation that are consistent with the hypothesis that the performing arts students are more likely to be engaged in the symbolic retrieval than on-performing arts students
Yet in third year when the researchers modified the uses of objects tasks, they found no differences in brain activation between the performing arts students and the non-performing arts students. This indicates that it is in the generation of novel ideas, and not the responding to novel ideas. that is the difference between the two groups.
The genetic data was not analysed in this article.
C- REFLECTIONS ON THE MATERIAL
It is quite interesting to note how the results of the studies presented in Article 1 and Article 2 point out that:
There is a positive relationship between music education and enhanced creativity.
There are “cognitive differences” between performing arts students in music and in theatre and non-performing arts students.
Education in the performing arts, whether music or theatre, impact our higher levels of abstraction reasoning ability and develop a significant increase in perceptual motor skills.
I was especially delighted to read how researchers in 1979 were able to show that the sooner we introduce music lessons to children (as early as grade 1), the more we can reap the true benefits of music. As neuroscience research teaches us today, the first six years of our life are critical because the brain is shaping neuronal networks involved in emotion and cognition.
Furthermore, I was also pleased to note how the studies proved that, once again, if we are to reap the true benefits of music, it cannot come by introducing music lessons once or twice a week, it has to be a sustained part of the curriculum.
OH, HOW I WISH these studies had been available when I was in primary school. Music lessons or art lessons in the mid 60’s were reserved for Friday afternoons, but only IF the class had been on good behaviour all week or IF teachers hadn’t decided that we had more important things to do. Yes, back then, art was definitely perceived as a frivolous activity PERMITTED only on Friday afternoon as a reward for having worked hard all week!!!.
With this image in mind, I decided to once again review both articles, as I asked myself what has really changed for music and the arts in education in the past 10 years, the time lapse between publication of the 2 studies. How are we using the beneficial findings from these studies in our educational system?
I asked these questions because isn’t true that the choices we allow our educational system to make for us are the ones that shape the minds of our kids, which in turn define their perception of the world, their values, their outlook and even their cognitive and emotional development. So what exactly am I supporting with regards to arts in this case, music and theatre, in our educational setting?
Upon returning to the articles, it became clear that one of the apparent changes since 1979 are the tools we are using to evaluate our research findings. In the 1998 article, no mention is made of any devices to measure the results of the tests administered. One can only assume that Weinberger proceeded by analyzing the verbal or written data given by the candidates’ responses. On the other hand, in the 2008 study, it is clear that Dunbar measured and analyzed his findings by using the latest technology, as in functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), which allows us to peek into a human brain and observe its activity as the subject performs psychological tasks or has certain experiences.
What an exciting change! Our new and much more sophisticated technologies are enabling us to study normal human brain function (specific mental processes function), which can offer a new level of understanding of the relation of the human brain to the human mind.
So, how has this sophisticated technology helped us show that music and other artistic intelligences are as important in the shaping of our kids’ minds as math and science in our classroom?
As I carefully reviewed the two articles, I noted that in both instances, the authors still expressed how their study aimed to try to approach the arts, music and theatre, in an objective manner, so to have their results considered as serious scientific findings and not some subjective and vague assumption.
Weinberger asserted that “the nature of creativity is a topic of intense current interest and also of great debate as many often ask if in fact creativity can be subject to scientific inquiry being its subjective nature?” But she also added that the “results from these objective controlled studies with well-reasoned arguments and not just anecdotal reports, point out a positive relationship between music education and enhanced creativity.” Dunbar stated that his main goal was to try through his study to “test specific hypothesis instead of vague and general claims about the effects of a performing arts education”.
Therefore, in spite of the sophisticated technology made available to us, it appears that our view towards the value of art in our educational setting hasn’t changed that much. The Western scientific worldview still ascribes little value to the subjective experience of music or arts in general. If it can’t be quantified, measured and preferably organized into mathematical relationships that describe their regularities of behaviour in order to provide objective knowledge of the world, that information cannot be used as a basis of reliable description of phenomena.
Next, how have researchers in the artistic domain been responding to this present status?
To justify the value of music, the questions that researchers set out to answer in both studies aimed at showing what music (and theatre) can bring to other areas of our brain development such as higher levels of abstraction reasoning ability, increased perceptual motor skills, etc.
How sad is it that in 2008, one still has to consider all the other developmental benefits of music in order to create a more compelling argument for music to be part of our quantitative scientific world, let alone be part of our educational system?
Furthermore, how sad is it that in 2008, one still has to downplay the importance of music for the beauty and value it brings into our lives. After all, music only puts us in touch with our feelings and through our feelings, the self. But no, this is not important enough.
“Personally, I found all the hubbub a bit offensive (referring the governor of Georgia who appropriated funds to buy a Mozart CD for every newborn in Georgia, after hearing about the Mozart effect, which said that music listening claimed to improve your performance on spatial-reasoning tasks because the implication was that music should not be studied in and of itself, or for its own right, but only if it could help people to do better on other MORE IMPORTANT things. Think how absurd this would sound if we turned it inside out. If I claimed that studying mathematics helped musical ability, would policy makers start pumping money into math for that reason? Music has often been the poor stepchild of public schools, the first program to get cut when there are funding problems, and people frequently try to justify it in terms of its collateral benefits, rather than letting music exist for its own rewards.”
(This is your Brain on Music, Daniel J. Levitin, p. 226)
Now, after reflecting about what has changed for the arts in the past ten years according to these articles, I would like to rephrase my question. Why is change happening so slowly for the arts in the classroom? And since that technological change is moving so swiftly, one would have thought that it would have accelerated a shift in scientific perspectives towards music and the arts?
For this I am sad and become impatient, especially when I think about how our current science of quantities has given us the ability to produce enough goods to satisfy the needs of all of the planet’s inhabitants, though I believe a rapidly declining quality of life worldwide justifies my impatience. The present-day powerful alliance of science, technology and business which has created our present global culture and whose primary principles are based on prediction, control, innovation, management and expansion is not working out quite as predicted.
For as much as we have the means to liberate all human beings from hunger and poverty with the production of wealth and goods achieved through the application of quantitative scientific knowledge, a good portion of the world’s population still lives in hunger and poverty. Our agricultural land is being destroyed at a very quick pace. Global warming, caused by the burning of fossil fuels, is affecting the atmosphere. The list is endless.
Rationality and power cannot be the only path to understanding nature as predicted by Francis Bacon, because too many signs are showing us that our quantitative science is becoming more and more powerless to achieve the stability and security it set out to do. This is why I strongly believe that, as the quantitative scientific approach to knowledge was once in the shadow of the Church and the celestial Gods, qualitative science is now in the shadow of quantitative science, which in turn will open up new doors in the study of art and its subjective nature.
Unfortunately, this won’t come to fruition tomorrow, as these two articles have demonstrated, but several studies are moving in the right direction direction. Françoise Wemelsfelder’s research, for example, seeks to develop a “science of qualities”, a method of reaching a consensus about such evaluations that the scientific community previously regarded as beyond the scientific scope.
In conclusion, I only have one thing to say. It is very important that we concern ourselves with the kinds of minds we want our children to have and that perhaps artistic intelligence will rise in our value system much quicker if we ask ourselves: WHAT KINDS OF MINDS WILL OUR CHILDREN NEED IF THEY ARE TO THRIVE IN THE FORTHCOMING ERAS???!!! The answer cannot surely solely rely on the scientific quantitative mind, don’t you think?