Smart people may learn music faster than others, say researchers from Michigan State University in a study.
Published in the journal Intelligence, it examines the relationship between intelligence, music aptitude and growth mindset among beginner pianists.
Growth mindset refers to whether students believe they can improve basic abilities, like piano ability.
“The strongest predictor of skill acquisition was intelligence, followed by music aptitude,” said study researcher Alexander Burgoyne.
In the study, 161 undergraduates were taught how to play ‘Happy Birthday’ on the piano with the help of a video guide.
After practice, the students performed the 25-note song multiple times.
Three MSU graduate students judged the performances based on their melodic and rhythmic accuracy.
There were striking differences in the students’ skill acquisition trajectories. Some learned quickly, earning perfect marks within six minutes of practice.
Others performed poorly at first but improved substantially later.
By comparison, some seemed to fade as if they had lost their motivation and others never figured it out, performing poorly throughout the study.
To find out why did some students fail while others succeeded, the researchers gave the students tests of cognitive ability that measured things like problem-solving skills and processing speed, and tests of music aptitude that measured, for example, the ability to differentiate between similar rhythms.
They also surveyed their growth mindset.
“The results were surprising, because people have claimed that mindset plays an important role when students are confronted with challenges, like trying to learn a new musical instrument,” Burgoyne said. (IANS)