Long Term Impacts of Music Skill Training

The theory that follows addresses the results summarized above. It is also receiving further testing, development, and support through continuing research in Cambridge, and as yet unpublished analysis of long term cognitive and social outcomes of music skill training begun by age 12 in 397 individuals followed longitudinally from age seven to age 35.

How can the broader skill development associated with music training documented here be explained?

The data reviewed is longitudinal, thus, we compare net changes in learning in individuals who do or do not receive singing-based music training. How can this music training affect learning and development in an individual more broadly? I continue to propose (Gardiner, 2000, 2003, 2008a) that these impacts on individual development strongly concern how skill comes to be addressed mentally as skill is learned.

Brain Adjustment Improving Skillful Behavior

There are many examples showing that our brains can somehow improve performance requiring skill through adjustments that never fully reach conscious awareness. Especially dramatically, our skill at understanding the world visually can be temporarily greatly harmed if we put on glasses that invert every image (Lillicrap et al, 2013). But if we continue to wear the glasses in about a week we see everything upright again. Now if we take off the inverting glasses we again become confused. But in another week our vision adjusts itself to normal.

Two Ways to Improve Ability to Behave Skillfully

I wish to distinguish between two strategies our brains can use to improve any specific capability to behave skillfully. These are a Reproductive Strategy and a Creational Strategy.

Reproductive Strategy

This strategy involves the brain preparing for execution pieces of skillful behavior in advance which can then be executed to reproduce desired behavior every time it is needed. For example, as the brain rebuilds its connections to information from the eyes when one wears reversing glasses, this must involve development of changes in brain actions that prepare information for interpretation. Once developed, the brain expects to continue this new treatment of visual data, but when confusion due to taking off the glasses begins, the brain revises its adjustment, returning to its previous actions.

Creational Strategy

Here, capability is fully created only when and as needed, thus allowing for adjustment in needed behavior to specific conditions at the time the execution of skill must be developed. Two different songs, for example, may be similar in many but not all ways. They may each be learned individually for reproduction as two examples of singing skill, or they may be learned as two examples of song singing skills that are then adapted differently to the needs of each of the two songs. As I will discuss below, creational strategy fosters the second of these alternatives.

Developing Applications of Reproductive and Creational Components of Strategy

To the extent that needed skillful behavior is routine, Reproductive Strategy, which builds capability in advance is especially useful. Capability at Creational Strategy becomes increasingly important as applications of any skill becomes less routine.

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