Cognitive Performance

In Theory, It’s One Big Brain Activity

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                   Cognitive Performance and Intelligence

          So how does this all tie together with music?  Does music actually make you smarter? It’s hard to say with evidence that convey music listening to stimulate alpha-brainwaves which are better known to describe a subject as “calm” or “tranquil” (Wagner, 5), but who is to say this is not an advantageous state of mind intellectually?  Music listening and music lessons have been claimed to confer intellectual advantages. To be specific, Schellenberg’s research shows that “music lessons cause improvements in intellectual ability” (Schellenberg, 319).  These abilities include:  reading, mathematical, verbal, and spatial abilities.  Taking advantage of this knowledge in the context of improving the perception of literacy skills for learners will only be perfected by trial and error especially if music listening and music lessons short-term and long-term cognitive benefits are not backed by any kind of formula or prescription of how to elicit these type of results.   From Schellenberg, two important points can be utilized to develop such a product.  First, children perform better on spatial test after listening to pop music (Blur Effect) compared to listening to music by Mozart (Mozart Effect) or a scientific discussion and contributes to improving children’s creativity …”upbeat, age-appropriate music can improve listeners’ arousal level and mood, at least for short periods. In turn, effects of arousal and mood extend beyond measures of spatial ability to tests of processing speed and creativity” (318).

           Secondly,  “music promotes intellectual development because of its inherently abstract nature…a tune is defined solely by relational information” (Schellenberg, 320).  Since “tunes are abstractions” this is a perfect compliment to fundamental concepts taught in mathematics, order of operations, in which tunes can convey information.  Inherently, feedback in a non-traditional manner can be programmed for the learner as a sequence of tunes that resembles a mathematical expression being simplified by following the order of operations as it is taught in institutions (Levitin, 15).  (Throughout this paper, the term mapping will be used to refer to the arranging mathematical expressions on a keyboard, and coding the solution as a tune.)  In addition to “the association [to a] constellation of abilities that music lessons train and improve – abilities including focused attention and concentration, memorization, reading music, fine-motor skills, expressing emotions, and so on” are qualities that enable a learner (Schellenberg, 319).  Participating in activities where the learner listens to music they engage with can be beneficial to the learners development.

          It is important to know that this paper doesn’t claim music to be the sole answer our target needs to improve their understanding of literacy skills.  Schellenberg says that, “any association between music and intellectual functioning would be notable only if the benefits apply reliably to nonmusical abilities and if music is unique in producing the effects. The available evidence indicate that music listening leads to enhanced performance on a variety of cognitive tests, but that such effects are short-term and stem from the impact of music on arousal level and mood, which, in turn, affect cognitive performance; experiences other than music listening have similar effects (i.e. sipping coffee, or eating a small bag of candy)” (Schellenberg, 317).  According to Wagner’s research, this short-term effect may have something to due with the alpha waves produced by listening to music, which contribute to tranquil and calm states of mind that lead to not focusing or disuse of the rational mind (Wagner, 5).  Moreover, the uncertainty of the range of alpha waves and the diverse ways music listening effects the listener may contribute to its random effect on learners since the alpha wave range is between delta waves (comatose, deep sleep waves) and beta rhythm waves (alertness and externally oriented attention) (Wagner, 4).  Schellenberg goes on to state, “music lessons in childhood tell a different story. They are associated with small, but general and long-lasting intellectual benefits that cannot be attributed to obvious confounding variables such as family income and parents’ education. The mechanisms underlying this association have yet to be determined” (Schellenberg, 317).  Although music listening may have short-term or long-term affects intellectually and have no effect on variables such as family income (job), it’s my hypothesis that literacy skills will be learned in a meaningful way in this manner such that the learner appreciates them and raises their self-efficacy, and gives the learner their daily dose of music; optimizing the use of technology.


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