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mattbrowne's avatar

Can unintelligent music dull (young) people's minds and senses?

Asked by mattbrowne (31600points) May 3rd, 2009

There is some research showing that certain kinds of music can boost intelligence and social behavior. What about the reverse effect? Is there music that makes people more stupid? Here’s an interesting article:

Can music really help you think better? Yes, according to the research that has been done so far. Listening to, and participating in music creates new neural pathways in your brain that stimulate creativity. Studies have shown that music actually trains the brain for higher forms of thinking. There was a study at the University of California, for example, about 10 years ago.

Researchers followed the progress of three year olds, split into two groups. The first group had no particular training in, or exposure to music. The second group studied piano and sang daily in chorus. After eight months the musical three year olds were much better at solving puzzles. When tested, they also scored 80% higher in spatial intelligence than the non musical group. With such a dramatic difference, there is bound to be more research like this in the future.

There is also anectdotal evidence that listening to music, especially from Mozart’s era, can help you study and learn better. Hopefully there will be research done to confirm or disprove this soon, but there is really no good reason not to do your own experimentation in this area. Stephen King writes with loud rock music playing, so maybe any benefits here are according to your own tastes or brain-organization.

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26 Answers

Facade's avatar

I definitely think the shit most people my age consume their minds with is damaging them.

Blondesjon's avatar

Before I can answer this I need to know what the contextual definition of “unintelligent music” is, in relation to the question.

Speranza's avatar

I’ve believed this for most of my life. It has always seemed common sense to me – the ‘Music of the Spheres’ and subtle harmonies from Hildegard of Bingen onwards spoke to people’s souls and refreshed them.

Now we have embraced discord and cacophany. I think this is reflected in society – but as to which is cause and which is effect..?

There again, I know people who hate classical music. Many years ago I was teaching a very young class and decided to introduce them to some of my favourite pieces and see what they made of them. It ended with me having to help them to find words for the huge feelings evoked. At first all they could say was, “Sad!” but it turned out that was the only feeling big enough which they could name… It did seem to open up their ability to identify and express emotions, so I concluded that perhaps children who AREN’T exposed to such music are indeed missing out.

I’ve proved the ‘Mozart Effect’ works in my teaching of very disturbed children. Some of whom actually asked for the music after weeks of grumbling about it, saying, “It helps me work better Miss.”

Jayne's avatar

My impression is that classical music has the potential to increase intelligence because it has a highly ordered, complex construction, the analysis of which involves equally complex, ordered thinking. Modern, “stupid” music does not have that depth, so it does not have the same potential. However, not teaching is not the same as making unintelligent; it would only have that effect if people spend so much time immersed in such music that they fail to expose themselves to other stimuli.

SeventhSense's avatar

Eyes lissnin’ ta tha shizzy in tha hizzy and and damned if ya aint be trippin up in this hizouse. Eyz lyke mad edumucated and shit…

casheroo's avatar

I don’t believe this at all, I actually think this is a bunch of BS.

Jayne's avatar

In response to casheroo, I am somewhat skeptical of the studies shown in the link- I can think of several possible sources of significant error and alternate interpretations for the data. However, listening to my musician friends discussion the organization of the pieces they play or compose, it is difficult to imagine that mental exercise of that order is not beneficial. Whether it is more beneficial than other complex skills is the question.

casheroo's avatar

@Jayne Are we talking about people who compose music, or people that listen to it? I don’t think listening to it has an effect on someone’s intelligence, unless they understand what they are listening to musically…that to me is like reading a book to them.
I have friends who had their fetuses listen to music while in the womb. Usually all classical music. I don’t think it makes a difference, but they choose to believe it does.

Judi's avatar

Thats what they said when The Beatles came out.

Jayne's avatar

@casheroo; I am sure that playing or composing music will have an effect, even with “stupid” music. As for listening, the listener would have to pay fairly close attention to the music to reap much of a benefit. If they actually try to parse the organization of the music, they will probably bring visual and higher intelligence centers of the brain into play, and that is when learning would occur. I very much doubt that a baby would be doing this.

btko's avatar

I think what makes a person smarter is the act of making music not listening to it.

As an aside note:
One study has shown that the personalities of heavy-metal fans and classical fans are very close to the same.

cyndyh's avatar

I’d like to see some research into all sort of things involving listening and making music. It just seems that every time I see something like this what they describe sounds like one-off, with small sample sizes, doesn’t adhere to strict controls and, as Jayne points out, have many other things possible interpretation for the small amount of data they find.

I like a lot of the ideas but just because the idea is fun and we could make an argument for it being possible doesn’t mean it’s true.

As far as unintelligent music dulling someone’s mind goes, I guess that’d depend a lot on what specifically works or doesn’t work to “make people smarter”. Once you found what that was you could try varying that factor and seeing what happens.

El_Cadejo's avatar

Cant really say one influences the other, but i have noticed the people that have wide musical interests tend to be smarter than those who just listen to pop/rap music.

If Mozart were alive today he’d make psychedelic music.

cyndyh's avatar

So, Mozart would be in String Cheese Incident, Spoon, or Phish? :^>

El_Cadejo's avatar

@cyndyh i was thinking more electronic psychedlic like this

nikipedia's avatar

Okay, back up.

1. It is an enormous leap to go from “36 undergraduates performed better on mazes taken from the Stanford-Binet IQ test after listening to Mozart” to “Mozart makes you more creative!”

2. No evidence exists suggesting that “new neural pathways” are made.

3. The so-called “Mozart effect” has been heavily criticized by other experts in the field. It has not been replicated well by groups outside the one that initially observed it and their methodology and statistical techniques have been called into question.

So no, if you can even come up with an acceptable operational definition for “unintelligent music,” I am almost certain it has no effect on people’s cognition or other executive functions. To answer your specific title question, it will affect people’s “minds and senses” because your mind is used to sense and perceive music.

SeventhSense's avatar

Well all joking aside I thought it was a given that the works of Mozart contributed to an increase in cognitive function. But apparently the testing as been inconclusive. As per Eric’s Digest
The research suggests that music may act as a catalyst for cognitive abilities in other disciplines, and the relationship between music and spatial-temporal reasoning is particularly compelling. However, several concerns remain unaddressed. Little is known regarding the exact aspects of music instruction that contribute to the transfer effects.
On a personal note, I think that a variety of music is key to overall healthy development and the idea of rhythm and beat seems to be innate to our species.

SeventhSense's avatar

On a similar note, I can often remember the lyrics to music that I wouldn’t necessary recall without the musical accompaniment. There must be something to that. I think it would form an interesting hypothesis to pursue the role of music and memory function in a controlled study.

cyndyh's avatar

@uberbatman: I like that piece of music. Some of it sounds middle eastern. Parts of it sound sort of trance-like, but that’s not what I think of as “psychedelic music”. To each their own, I guess. Cheers!

justwannaknow's avatar

Have you talked to some young people lately? If so you have your answer.

El_Cadejo's avatar

@cyndyh if thats not psychedelic i dont know what is :P

cyndyh's avatar

Ha! Preach brother! :^>

charliecompany34's avatar

some of the music kids listen to today sounds like the equivalent of a hospital patient being prepped for surgery with the local anesthesiologist. the sound is electronic and over-produced and synthetic and fake. to be more clearer, to the ear it sounds like things are slowing down and lethargic and “druggy” much like when you are inebriated or under the influence of liquor or drugs.

(music producers, i know you know what i mean)

some may disagree, but music that enlightens or inspires are natural sounds like live bands with real flute, lead guitar, saxophone or piano or even a hammond B-3 organ.

bands like steely dan or crosby still nash and young or even the rolling stones and james brown or the ohio players or earth wind and fire. bands like “chicago” or the dooby brothers. bands that played FOR REAL like in real time and real music.

music is like food. it is either fresh or “processed.”

fresh and natural is better for you. so is the same with music.

SeventhSense's avatar

I hear you and I’m starting to feel like these guys and I’m only 41!

mattbrowne's avatar

I’m not sure how many people have tried to come up with a clear definition of unintelligent or intelligent music. In general, in my opinion intelligent music is related to several (not necessarily all) of the following features:

- an interesting and tangible melody (or melodies)
– variation of harmonics
– an engaging rhythm
– good use of musical instruments (can also be just one)
– ability to survive at least 20 years
– listening to it may evoke positive emotions and the release of endorphins
– listening to it may boost the levels of dopamine, a neurotransmitter that helps people focus

Maybe someone can come up with a better definition. Any volunteers? I tried Google but was unable to find anything of value.

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