Tag Archives: Galit Blumenthal

Openness to Experience Predicts Untapped Musical Ability

David M. Greenberg

David M. Greenberg

Openness to Experience was the most accurate predictors of musical ability, even among people with no musical experience, found University of Cambridge’s David M. Greenberg and Daniel Müllensiefen of University of London.

Daniel Müllensiefen

Daniel Müllensiefen

This finding enables parents and educators to encourage promising but inexperienced musical talent to pursue the cognitive and performance-enhancing benefits of musical training, described in earlier blog posts.

For example, musical training’s beneficial effect on reducing the cost of task switching is relevant in many work situations that require rapid shifts in attentional focus, and was empirically validated by York University’s Linda Moradzadeh, Galit Blumenthal, and Melody Wiseheart.

Paul Costa

Paul Costa

More than among 7,800 participants provided detailed demographic information, including their musical experience.
In addition, they completed the Big Five Inventory of personality dimensions, developed by NIH’s Paul Costa and Robert McCrae:

  • Extroversion,
  • Agreeableness,
  • Conscientiousness,
  • Neuroticism,
  • Openness to Experience.
Robert McCrae

Robert McCrae

Within Openness to Experience, volunteers rated their agreement with Openness to Aesthetics items like:
“I see myself as someone who:

  • values artistic, aesthetic experiences,
  • has few artistic interests,
  • is sophisticated in art, music, or literature.”

Besides their Openness to Aesthetic experience, participants rated their musical expertise, and completed musical ability assessments.
Almost three-quarters reported playing no musical instrument.

Linda Moradzadeh

Linda Moradzadeh

Volunteers listened to unfamiliar 10-note to 17-note melodies, which were repeated in a different key, then decided whether the two melodies were the same.
In another musical skills task, volunteers listened to excerpts of instrumental music were overlaid with a metronomic beep, then judged whether the beep was on the beat.
Those who scored higher on Openness to Experience performed significantly better on musical tasks, even if they reported no musical experience.

Galit Blumenthal

Galit Blumenthal

These findings suggest that it’s possible to identify people who are likely to have musical talent based on their personality characteristics, even if they have no musical experience.
This research may encourage families, educators, and academic policy makers to encourage music training and capitalize on its well-documented cognitive benefits – even among those who are Open to Experience but not musically experienced.

-*How does Openness to Experience enhance work-related performance?

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Task Switching Skills Improved With Musical Training

Ira Hyman

Ira Hyman

“Multitasking” is more accurately described as “task switching” because people typically can’t effectively sustain split attention.
However, it is possible to alternate between two mental tasks, but there is a “cognitive switching cost” in decreased speed and performance accuracy.

S. Matthew Boss

S. Matthew Boss

One vivid example of performance decrements when performing simple “multitasking” is illustrated in a study of walking while using a mobile phone, conducted by Western Washington University’s Ira E. Hyman Jr., S. Matthew Boss, Breanne M. Wise-Swanson, Kira E. McKenzie, and Jenna M. Caggiano.

Ira Hyman-Unicycling Clown Attentional BlindnessThey found that walking and talking caused most volunteers to experience “inattentional blindness” to unicycling clown.

Breanne M Wise-Swanson

Breanne M Wise-Swanson

In addition, the “multitasking” participants walked more slowly, changed directions more frequently, and were less likely to acknowledge other people than individuals.

Hyman and team concluded, “Doing more than one task at a time, especially more than one complex task, takes a toll on productivity,” and went on to note the dangers of driving while talking on a phone.
In fact, a previous blog reviewed the evidence for reduced driving performance when listening to music, a less-demanding activity than texting or talking on a telephone.

Ranate Meuter

Ranate Meuter

Even switching between two well-practiced languages can reduce cognitive processing speed, found Queensland University of Techology’s Renata Meuter and University of Oxford’s Alan Allport.

They asked bilingual participants to name numerals in their first language or second language in an unpredictable sequence.
Participants responded more slowly when they switched to the other language, indicating a “cognitive switching cost.”

Volunteers named digits associated with a background color in their first language or second language.
They named digits in their second language more slowly, but were slower in their first language after the language changed from the previous cue.

Jeffrey Evans

Jeffrey Evans

Involuntary persistence of the second-acquired language interfered with participants actively suppressing their original language, leading to delays when responding in their more well practiced “birth tongue,” they argued.

As tasks become more complex, the performance-hampering effects of task switching increase, according to United Stated Federal Aviation Authority’s Joshua Rubinstein with Jeffrey Evans, and David Meyer of University of Michigan, who evaluated switching between different task like solving math problems or classifying geometric objects.

David Meyer

David Meyer

Like Meuter and Allport, they noted that people switching tasks navigate two stages of “executive control:”

  • Goal shifting: “I want to do this now instead of that,”
  • Rule activation: “I’m turning off the rules for that and turning on the rules for this”.Rubinstein’s team estimated that traversing these phases can reduce productivity by much as 40 percent, and noted that the problem is compounded for individuals with damage to the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex.
Linda Moradzadeh

Linda Moradzadeh

However, musical training seems to reduce the costs of task switching, found York University’s Linda Moradzadeh, Galit Blumenthal, and Melody Wiseheart.
This team matched more than 150 similar age and socioeconomic status participants who were also:

  • Monolingual musicians (averaging 12 years of musical training) or
  • Bilingual musicians (averaging 12 years of musical training) or
  • Bilingual non-musicians or
  • Monolingual non-musicians.
Galit Blumenthal

Galit Blumenthal

Volunteers performed task switching and dual-task challenges, along with intelligence and vocabulary measures.
Musicians demonstrated fewer global and local switch costs compared with non-musicians and bilingual volunteers.
This finding contrasts other results regarding bilingualism’s advantage for task switching performance in a previous blog post.

Melody Wiseheart

Melody Wiseheart

In addition, Moradzadeh’s team found no benefit of combining bilingual expertise with musical training to reduce task-switching costs,

These results suggest that musical training can contribute to increased ability to shift between mental sets in both task switching and dual-task efforts, thanks to “superior ability to maintain and manipulate competing information in memory, allowing for efficient “global” or holistic processing.”

-*To what extent do you find “multitasking” an effective practice to accomplish cognitive tasks?

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