Music lessons from infants

Sandra E. Trehub

in Oxford Handbook of Music Psychology

Published in print December 2008 | ISBN: 9780199298457
Published online September 2012 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Library of Psychology

 Music lessons from infants

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What can we learn about music and musicality from infants? Sceptics may question the possibility of deriving fruitful answers to such questions from immature beings whose hearing is deficient (relative to adults) and whose exposure to ‘good’ music, even conventional music, is limited. This article considers the possibility of nature making some contribution to our musical beginnings and to our subsequent development. The story that emerges from infancy involves a rich musical environment, with mothers delivering performances which match the inclinations of their infants. Moreover, infants have predispositions or inborn preferences for musical features that are common across the world's cultures. Because musical systems across the world differ in notable respects, it makes sense that infants are open to the available alternatives. With increasing exposure to music, they gain expertise as listeners, but that expertise comes at the cost of diminished sensitivity to features which are irrelevant or infrequent in their own musical culture.

Keywords: musicality; babies; musical culture; musical environment

Article.  3638 words. 

Subjects: Psychology ; Cognitive Psychology

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