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Publication Detail
Generalization of auditory expertise in audio engineers and instrumental musicians
  • Publication Type:
    Working discussion paper
  • Authors:
    Caprini F, Zhao S, Chait M, Agus T, Pomper U, Tierney A, Dick F
  • Publisher:
    Center for Open Science

From auditory perception to general cognition, the ability to play a musical instrument has been associated with skills both related and unrelated to music. However, it is unclear if these effects are bound to the specific characteristics of musical instrument training, as little attention has been paid to other populations whose auditory expertise could match or surpass that of musicians in specific auditory tasks or more naturalistic acoustic scenarios. We explored this possibility by comparing conservatory-trained instrumentalists to students of audio engineering (along with naive controls) on measures of auditory discrimination, auditory scene analysis, and speech in noise perception. We found that both musicians and audio engineers had generally lower psychophysical thresholds than controls, with pitch perception showing the largest effect size. Musicians performed best in a sustained selective attention task with two competing streams of tones, while audio engineers could better memorise and recall auditory scenes composed of non-musical sounds, when compared to controls. Additionally, in a diotic speech-in-babble task, musicians showed lower signal-to-noise-ratio thresholds than both controls and engineers. We also observed differences in personality that might account for group-based self-selection biases. Overall, we showed that investigating a wider range of forms of auditory expertise can help us corroborate (or challenge) the specificity of the advantages previously associated with musical instrument training.

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