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Lecture 11

PSY274 Lecture 11 (Nov 19).docx

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University of Toronto Mississauga
Craig Chambers

PSY274 Lecture 11 - On the nature of human communication, a glance backward through PSY274 o Character of human communication (e.g. compared to animal communication) is revealed in…  Features of the primary communicative system  How the communication system is used, and its relationship to other psychological domains (thinking, societal structures…) o Today: another expression of the human communicative impulse - MUSIC and Human communication - Today: o How music relate to concepts of communication and language o Features of music perception and cognition o Effects of experience with music - Important side note o Thinking about music in its unprofessionalized form, more general way o Division of individuals into “experts” (performers) and “nonexperts” (audiences/consumers) is a recent development in human history and specific to certain societies - Some initial questions o Is music a form of communication?  Does music fit a standard definition of communication?  Can music be seen as evolving or suit some communicative need/function? o More specific questions  Could music be a by-product of language abilities?  How do the formal characteristics of music and language compare? - Does music “fit” a standard definition of communication o Image of communication chains - Language undoubtedly fits into this framework. Does music? o In some ways, but not a complete match o E.g. singing to yourself (no recipient)  People may argue that you can talk to yourself  Jamming with friends, instrumental music  Agent(s) and recipient(s) are same, transmission by different agents can be synchronous, rather than alternating o e.g. some (non-western) cultures: music typically takes form of collective (group) engagement involving movement, rarely one-to-one transmission  interesting side note: some languages lack separate terms for music and dance  motor performance for dance is a motor for music - Other differences: o The “message” in music is often known in advance (e.g. the song that will be played; but some exceptions, such as improvisation in jazz music). Communication in language is “unscored”, unpredictable - Music scored advanced o Human communication is usually unpredictable and unscripted - Can music be seen as evolving to suit some communicative need or function? o Proposals regarding the ‘communicative function’ of music, from an evolutionary perspective o Mate selection?  (e.g. analogous to bird singing), BUT: unexpected that both male and female humans produce music then? o Conflict resolution  If we all engage in music, then we forget/escape from grievances o Safe time passing  (e.g. when you’re not “in the wild” hunting or foraging, it is safer to be in a shelter; you need something to occupy your time while there) o Group effort?  Rowing the boat, harvesting the plant, etc; o Putting the baby down?  As we lost our fur in the course of evolution, nothing for baby to grasp on to. If using hands, baby has to be put down (separated from mother); music as a tool to calm the baby o Transgenerational communication?  But only makes sense if accompanied by language, so why not language alone? Possibly more fun? o Social emotional cohesion o Infant caretaking (broader notion than just putting baby down) o Last two are considered most likely by researchers - Why focus on social emotional cohesion and infant caretaking? o Impulse to add music; universal occurrence of music o Singing across culture; use in group activities/rituals o Universal nature of singing to infants  Parents’ singing reflects their emotional/arousal goals for infant (e.g. same song can be sung in peppy vs. lullaby-esque way), suggests a function for specific acts of singing  Infants’ reaction to singing o Can’t speculate about faces in the past - Could music be a by-product of language abilities? o One perspective on music… o Pinker (psycholinguist):  Music = “auditory cheesecake…it just happens to tickle several important parts of the brain in a highly pleasurable way, as cheesecake tickles the palate”  Argues music is a spandrel o Spandrel example, recall the term borrowed from Stephen Jay Gould  Characteristic can be the by-product of the evolution of another characteristic, rather than itself reflecting direct adaptive selection - So, one hypothesis: music might be by product of evolution of language abilities o Some theorists have argued similar point - Does this matter in judging music’s importance for psychological inquiry? o “even if” #1 o Even if something is a by-product or something else, it becomes important independently o Traits that were originally by-products of other evolutionary innovations sometimes become extremely important o Example:  Feathers on birds was originally for warmth; then for display and then eventually for flight o Relevant concept: exaptation ( a shift in function of trait over course of evolution o Current value of trait can therefore make it very important to consider and study, regardless of trait’s origin! - “Even if” #2 o Music is used worldwide; prevalence of music and found in every society (scope) o The amount of time/money spend on music [societal importance]  D.Huron: 2001, USA: more $$ made exporting music than pharmaceuticals o Prevalence o Neanderthal musical artifacts: would produce notes consistent with the kinds of melodic patterns in modern music [tied to modern human origins] o There underscore music’s importance to humans…therefore an important topic, regardless of its potential to be a “by-product” o All these list important functions for humans regardless if it was a by-product or not - How do the formal characteristics of music and language compare? o If music is a by-product of language (or even if it isn’t), it is relevant to compare them at fine grained level o SIMILARITIES o Melodies and language has a structural template o Presence of formal structure (ex. Inventory of units of particular types; “rules” for combining units) o Potential for recursion; taking one part of the sentence and making another sentence  Embedding into other things  Ex. Beethoven’s 5 symphony o Both reflect combination of wired in and learned knowledge o Being an “expert” on the subject doesn’t entail a major difference in how perceptual and cognitive systems compute stimuli (only difference is having terms for formal concepts)  Musical information are processed the same way - Music and Language: DIFFERENCES o Number of levels of structure? o Number of different ways in which system can vary cross culturally o Other differences:  Music  Modality dependent? o Written form does not allow some kind of appreciation  Meaning? Narrow forms and ambiguous  Language  Modality independent o Signed vs spoken; written version  Can express unambiguous referential meaning - A closer look: what kind of meaning does music convey? o Typical response: EMOTIONAL meaning o Music: can induce emotions more directly (knowledge not required for how to compute the perceptual signal) o Language: indirect effect (must know the “code”, word meanings and rules of sentence combination for specific language) o But musical “meaning” is still somewhat ambiguous (different individuals may have different emotional impressions of a musical experience; music can “take on” emotional meanings from context o Even if music does not have context or lyrics, it may still provide emotion or illicit emotion - Conclusions: is music a form of “communication” o On close analysis, music fails to exhibit some of the important aspects of communication o Many of the communicative aspects music does possess are only “partial” in nature o Nonetheless, communicative features of music are important and are sufficient to motivate certain hypotheses including:  Existence of similar kinds of broad developmental patterns for language and music  The use of similar/shared mental mechanisms for processing language and music - How do we come to process music the way we do? o Entirely experienc
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