La musique est la langue du cur
[Music is the language of the heart]
While most elements of Accelerative Learning can be found in education in some form or other, the genuinely innovative element which Accelerative Learning brings to today's classrooms is the systematic use of music in the instruction process. While the coupling of music and messages is extensively used in advertising and in entertainment, music in education, outside official music classes, tends to be restricted to use with young children in kindergarten and primary school. Although we know from experience that words synchronised with music or rhythm are easier to learn than words alone, preparation of materials in this form with older children or adults are usually only found in music or drama classes, and perhaps in some language classes. The idea of a mathematics class relaxing to the sounds of Handel's Watermusic while the teacher recites a list of formulae, or an English class listening to Pachelbel's Canon while the teacher reads excerpts from a novel, tends to elicit a variety of responses from today's educators, ranging from amusement to disbelief. This form of learning, however, is not new, and has been shown to be effective. As Rose (1985) points out, the coupling of music and recital of words was already used by the ancient Greeks.
Although the music used has changed, the technique of presenting words and music simultaneously in order to enhance retention of materials has been reintroduced in Accelerative Learning. Two major rationales for this can be identified in Lozanov's (1978) original work. The first was Lozanov's belief that music has the potential to create a state of relaxed alertness in the students which he calls psychorelaxation. Lozanov (1978) found that the body rhythms of students adjusted to the rhythms of the baroque music he used. He recorded a significant increase in alpha brain waves during the passive concert sessions with a corresponding decrease in beta waves. He also recorded a drop in blood pressure and a slowing of the pulse. According to the relaxation and anxiety research discussed below, this state may be conducive to better performance.
The second rationale for the use of music in the instruction process was the idea of whole brain learning. Lozanov (1978) believed that the interaction of both hemispheres together with the neo-cortex had a positive effect on retention rates of learned materials. Research by Claycomb (1978) supports this claim. Other models on brain functioning, such as the Triune Brain system (McLean 1973), the Taxon and Locale Memory system (O'Keefe & Nadel 1978) and the Holographic Memory system (Pribram & Coleman 1979) also suggest, according to Stein et al. (1982), that multiple channels of input will increase information retention.
In Accelerative Learning language and music are presented simultaneously resulting in a complex interaction between both hemispheres and the neo-cortex. Strict lateralisation of music and language processing, as has been shown by Duffy et al (1981), can no longer generally be supported since it has been demonstrated that different and extended areas of both hemispheres undergo changes during musical tasks (Petsche et al 1985). While Duffy et al (1981) suggested that language is processed by the left hemisphere while music is processed by the right hemisphere, Petsche et al (1985) found that subjects listening to a Mozart symphony generated totally different topographic patterns of changes of the E.E.G. parameters studied. The latter's findings support the proposition of Bever and Chiarello (1974) who suggested that the holistic appreciation of music of naive listeners is usually processed by the right hemisphere, whereas musically trained listeners tend to use their "analytical" left hemisphere.
The most detailed research on the role of music in Accelerative Learning has been carried out by Lehmann (1982,1983,1984) in the G.D.R. whose major findings are reported in translation in Lehmann and Gassner-Roberts (1988). In this publication Lehmann and Gassner-Roberts (1988:47) offer an even more detailed description of the relative roles of the two cerebral hemispheres in the processing of music and language:
Lehmann's work draws on the findings of music therapy which have shown that "the use of music for therapeutic purposes and for rehabilitation of the learning-disabled children can lead to a behaviour modification which contributes to mental and physiological recovery" (Lehmann & Gassner-Roberts 1988:3). He states, however, that:
Lehmann believes that the function of the music in Accelerative Learning is twofold. On the one hand it relaxes the students, on the other it broadens and changes the potential perceptions of the students. He claims that "the change of perception through music can influence the attitude to learning" and "effect an expansion of attention" (Lehmann & Gassner-Roberts 1988:29).
Assuming that there are sound physiological and psychological reasons for using music in the instruction process, can the research back up the claims for the consequent improved performance? We will now look in detail at studies which have investigated the effect of background music either during learning or during testing or both. We will also look at different music styles in order to find out which type of music may be the most effective.
Bordon and Schuster (1976) found that baroque music by Vivaldi and Bach resulted in a significant improvement in scores in a Spanish paired-associates task as compared to when this music was not played during the learning period in a laboratory setting. This study is further discussed in the suggestion section below. The findings for significantly improved performance as a result of baroque background music in a laboratory setting are supported by Renigers (1981), Baur (1982), and by Stein et al. (1982). In the natural teaching environment they are supported by Schiffler (1986b) This study is discussed in detail in chapter 4.
While all the laboratory studies investigated the effect of baroque music on learning, Schuster and Mouzon (1982) also included classical music for investigation. The effects of three treatment conditions - no music, baroque music as background to presenting rare English words and their definitions, and classical music in the same context - on the recall score immediately after the learning task and on retention scores 7 days later, were investigated in this study. It must be pointed out that the format for the immediate and the delayed tests was not identical. In the immediate test students were required to provide the appropriate definition of the words presented. This can be described as testing the students' recall ability. In the delayed tests students were required to match words to the correct definition. This can be described as testing the students' recognition ability.
Subjects were 228 volunteer college students divided into 18 treatment groups. They were sequentially given four vocabulary lists to learn, two of which were classified as easy and two as hard. Subjects' recall scores on a preliminary test were used as a covariate. Music was presented for three minutes before the presentation session and during the three minute presentation when the words and their definitions were read out aloud by the experimenter. Subjects in the baroque music condition received excerpts from Handel's Watermusic, while subjects in the classical music condition received excerpts from Rimsky-Korsakoff's Scheherazade Suite, The Young Princess and the Young Prince. Subjects in the control condition had the same amount of time devoted to the learning task with the same oral presentation, but no music was played. The same conditions were reinstated during the testing. Affective ratings were also taken at various times during the experiment.
Results showed that when music was played during the learning session, the control group performed lowest, with the classical condition next and the baroque condition performing best. All differences between groups were statistically significant for both immediate recall and retention. Music played during testing resulted in significantly improved performance for immediate recall but not for retention. The best results were achieved when subjects had learned with baroque music and had been tested with baroque music. The authors concluded that this condition was best because it also had the highest affective ratings for pleasantness and alertness.
The results of Schuster and Mouzon (1982) suggest two possible explanations for the positive effect of music on learning. Firstly, they indicate that students experience the learning environment with a music background as more pleasant than no music conditions which may lead to improved performance. This view is also held by Lozanov (1978) who refers to it as a "placebo effect" and Lehmann (Lehmann & Gassner-Roberts 1988:23) who refers to the work of Metzger (1961) which discusses the close relationship between mood and achievement. Secondly, the findings show for the first time in this context that recall is positively affected by the reinstatement of the learning conditions during testing. Therefore another effect, such as context-cueing, as suggested by Smith (1985), may be produced by the use of music in the learning environment.
Smith (1985:591) states that a number of dimensions of background context, such as general physical environment (Godden & Baddeley 1975), drug states (Eich 1980), mood states (Bartlett & Santrock 1979), or background colours (Dulsky 1935) have shown to be effective for inducing context-dependent memory. Smith (1985), independent of Accelerative Learning, investigated whether memory is likewise affected by acoustic background stimuli. Subjects in this study were 54 volunteer adult students. No music/noise conditions were compared with Mozart, Jazz and white noise. For the Jazz condition two instrumental pieces entitled People Make the World Go Around and Destiny's Children were used. For the Mozart condition the Piano Concerto No. 24 in C Minor was used, and for the white noise condition noise recorded at subjectively similar sound levels from a white noise generator was used.
Smith's study consisted of two experiments. The first compared Mozart, Jazz and quiet conditions, the second Jazz, white noise and quiet conditions. Smith found that if music or white noise was used during learning then the reinstatement of the same condition improved recall performance. When learning took place in quiet conditions, performance was unaffected by the testing condition. Both experiments showed no significant differences between conditions on initial recall, but the first experiment showed that significantly less forgetting occured in the condition which had Mozart for both learning and testing. The noise/noise condition was next, followed by the Jazz/Jazz condition with the quiet/quiet condition being last.
It is interesting to note that in Smith's (1985) study the white noise condition performed better in terms of retention of materials than both the Jazz and the quiet conditions. These findings are difficult to interpret in the light of the conclusions of Schuster and Mouzon (1982) who felt that the music played may have produced a more favourable environment in affective terms. While subjects in the Mozart/Mozart condition in Smith's (1985) study may have performed best because they felt best, it is difficult to imagine that subjects in the white noise condition would have felt better than either the Jazz or the quiet condition since this type of background stimulus is usually either not consciously perceived or perceived as an irritant.
A study by Jellison (1977), reported in Brislan (1986), for example, showed that subjects who received white noise as a background when placed in a stress situation reported significantly more stress than subjects who had received background music. While both Bach's Air on a G-String and Dvorāk's New World Symphony had been effective in significantly decreasing anxiety scores on the State-Trait Anxiety Inventory (STAI), white noise resulted in significantly increased anxiety scores.
Smith (1985:600) explains the fact that music or noise can serve as a memory cue while quiet does not in the following way:
While this is a plausible conclusion to arrive at in the light of other studies on context-dependent memory, it does not explore the reasons for the superiority of the Mozart/Mozart condition in this study or the superiority of the baroque music in Schuster and Mouzon (1982). Perhaps there is indeed an added effect of the subjects' liking of the background environment as suggested by Schuster and Mouzon (1982). Judging from polarity profiles collected by Lehmann (1982), it is quite possible that the Mozart condition was experienced as the most pleasant by the adult students in this study. Would this mean that teenagers who generally prefer rock music to classical or baroque music (Felix 1986) would perform better with such music as a background to learning?
A study by Mullikin and Henk (1985) investigating the effectiveness of background music on comprehension performance in reading with 45 4th-8th grade children at a private school does not support this notion. No music conditions were compared to classical and rock music conditions. For the classical condition Mascagni's Cavalleria Rusticana, described as "a soft composition with a slow, methodical cadence" (p.355) was used. For the rock condition music from an album by a popular rock group (not further described) was used. The two music selections were administered at the same volume.
Nine children were randomly selected from each grade level. The sample was approximately half male and half female, and approximately one third was black. Each grade was tested separately in intact groups. The study was carried out over three consecutive days. Each day the children read one of 15 social studies passages of equal difficulty and answered 10 comprehension questions. During this time either no music or classical or rock music was played. For each level the order of treatments and reading passages was randomised. Each child read a total of three passages and answered 30 questions.
Results were consistent across all grade levels. The rock condition performed the least well, with the no music condition next and the classical condition performing best. All differences between conditions were statistically significant. It is interesting to note that while the trend for the two music selections was clear, there were 3 subjects for whom the rock condition yielded better results than the classical condition. Although the results of this study show that classical music is more effective in a reading comprehension task with teenage children, they show that not all children are affected in the same way.
While the results of Schuster and Mouzon (1982), Smith (1985) and Mullikin and Henk (1985) suggest that certain styles of music are more effective in learning than others, caution has to be taken with drawing definite conclusions about which type of music may be most effective. There are not only distinctions between styles, such as baroque or rock music, in terms of tempo, melody, rhythm and timbre, but also between pieces within the same period such as baroque and between movements within the same piece. It is therefore important to know excactly which part of a musical piece was used in the investigation. All too often, however, studies do not report this information in detail. In Schuster and Mouzon (1982), for example, music was played for three minutes during the learning task, yet the music used was described as Handel's Watermusic which is a piece of 20 minutes duration with distinct variations in tempo, rhythm and melody. In the light of Lehmann's (1982) findings, it is quite possible that students may react differently to the different sections of this work which range in mood from a very solemn overture to cheerful dancing music and in tempo from adagio to allegro. Similar variations can be found in rock and pop music. It is therefore important to know exactly which piece was used, since differences in rhythm and instrumentation may have an effect on the outcome.
The differential effect on learning of musical pieces within the same period or style has been shown by Schuster (1985) who investigated the effect of various styles of background music on vocabulary learning with 256 volunteer adult subjects. The different styles of music investigated were baroque, classical, dissonant, Japanese, march, meditative and rock. The study used a mixed analysis of variance (ANOVA) design with between subject factors of type of music, music selection replication, suggestion, order of lists learned and subject gender. Dependent variables were as in Schuster and Mouzon (1982), the immediate recall and recognition after 7 days of 25 vocabulary items per list and affective ratings. One of the baroque pieces was identical to the one used in Schuster and Mouzon (1982). Schuster reports that neither recall immediately after learning nor retention scores were significantly affected by any of the background music when compared to the no music control groups.
However, there were significant differences between the individual music pieces for recall scores. Two selections of each style were used, and the one topping the list for recall performance, after scores had been adjusted according to the pre-test performance, was one of the dissonant selections, way ahead of the baroque and classical pieces. The inconsistency of the findings is highlighted by the fact, however, that the other dissonant selection was in 14th place out of 16 on the same list! In the light of Schuster and Mouzon's (1982) speculations about a positive correlation between affective ratings of the condition in which learning took place and consequent performance, it is interesting to note that the dissonant music was rated the least liked of all music conditions in Schuster (1985). Unfortunately no information is given as to the relative affective ratings of the individual pieces within each style.
Why Schuster's (1985) study showed radically different results in terms of the influence of music on learning in general from the studies reviewed above is difficult to ascertain. The study was well designed and controlled. Schuster's main speculation was that background music is probably most effective in the SALT or suggestopedic setting, and would therefore be better investigated in the natural classroom environment. However, of the above studies only Schiffler (1986b) investigated the effectiveness of music in this environment. All other studies took place in laboratory settings. And Schiffler's findings were the most conservative of all. Although he found a better performance with adults in intensive teaching settings as a result of using music in the instruction process, he reported a reduction of this effect when teaching took place for only four lessons a week, as is normal in the natural teaching environment.
Another type of music was investigated in a study by Davidson and Powell (1986) who looked at the effect of "Easy-listening" background music on fifth-grade science students' on-task performance. Twenty-six students were observed over 42 class sessions over a period of four months. Observations were recorded every three minutes. A significant increase in on-task behaviour was found for the total class and the male subjects. Although the female subjects also showed increased on-task performance, the effect was inhibited by a ceiling effect since the mean pre-treatment score had already been 99%.
Unfortunately no titles of the music used were given in this study. "Easy-listening" background music was defined as: "the type of music which has a melodic melody line over non-dissonant chordal structures and is non-percussive in beat. The orchestration is traditional in that there is a rich use of strings and winds. Easy-listening music is more lushly orchestrated than pop music." (p.30) Although the authors appear to refer to contemporary music this definition is not too far removed from Lehmann's (1982) recommendations for music selections for the concert sessions in the G.D.R.
While Lozanov (1978) recommended a variety of pieces from the baroque and the classical periods, Lehmann (1982:15), after extensive research with polarity profiles, narrowed these selections down to an even more precise period:
As Lehmann himself suggests, it may not be necessary to adhere strictly to prescribed music selections since other types of music may share characteristics with the above. He suggests that "better" pop music shows basically the same liguistic symbols as the music of the pre-classical period, the Vienna classical period and the early 19th century" (Lehmann & Gassner-Roberts 1988:30). There may also be a difference in affective reactions to different types of music between adult students and children. Lozanov (1978) claims that it is unimportant whether or not students like the music used. However, this view is not shared by the researchers in the G.D.R. (Lehmann & Gassner-Roberts 1988) who do not only believe that liking the music is important, but that students' attitudes towards the music can be transformed from negative to positive as a result of taking part in a suggestopedic course. Lozanov's claim is further refuted by a study on children's attitude towards music in their learning environment (Felix 1986) which showed that teenage students would be more receptive to Accelerative Learning in their classroom if the music was more to their liking.
While the majority of studies looked at the effects of music during the learning task, some studies have also investigated the effect of music during testing only. Results here, however, are not as consistent as they are with music during learning. Of the two studies already discussed above, Schuster and Mouzon (1982) reported that baroque and classical music during testing had a significant effect on immediate recall but not on retention of vocabulary, while Smith (1985) reported no significant effect of classical music, jazz or white noise as a background during testing.
Render, Hull and Moon (1984), too, found no significant effect on vocabulary recall when baroque music was played during testing only. In this study four groups of volunteer undergraduate students (N=62) were given four multiple choice tests under four different conditions each: (a) guided relaxation before testing, (b) baroque music during testing, (c) a combination of both (a) and (b), and (d) neither relaxation nor music. Overall, findings did not show a significant effect for any of the three treatment conditions, although the general pattern was for the relaxation condition to perform high and the control condition low.
The findings of Render, Hull & Moon (1984) and Smith (1985), however, are not supported by Blanchard (1979) who reported significantly increased exam performance by students when classical or rock and roll music had been played during testing. Unfortunately the author does not give further details about the music used. In this study 254 volunteer university students, taking a traditional final examination, were divided into three groups, equated as to students' age, weight and educational background. While the control group sat the 2.5 hours exam under standard exam conditions, the two remaining groups had either classical or rock and roll music playing in the background. All subjects' blood-pressure and pulse-rate was taken before, during and after the exam. Findings were that the blood-pressure of the control group rose to a much higher level than that of either music group. The control group also showed much poorer recuperative activity of the heart after the exam while both music groups displayed excellent recuperation. Exam scores were 215.9 out of 300 for the control group, 250.9 for the rock and roll condition and 253.2 for the classical condition. The difference between the control group's performance and that of both experimental groups was statistically significant.
Blanchard's (1979) results strongly support the use of music during testing, both for increasing academic performance and for the physiological benefits associated with background music. However, looking at the findings of all studies discussed, it appears that music during testing only may not be as effective as music either during learning or especially both during learning and testing. The findings of Schuster and Mouzon (1982) and Smith (1985) indicate that the reinstatement during testing of the musical background used during learning may yield the best results in terms of retention of materials.
Conclusions - Music. Judging from the findings of these studies it can be said that background music appears to have a positive effect in the learning environment. While most studies found a positive effect on the recall of vocabulary, one reported better reading performance and another better on-task behaviour asssociated with the use of background music. Of the ten studies which investigated the effectiveness of music during learning, nine reported significant positive effects either on short-term or on long-term memory. Of the eight studies which looked at the effects of music immediately after the learning task, six reported significant positive results. Of the seven studies which looked at the effects of music after 48 hours or even later, six again reported significant positive results.
The effect of music during testing has not been as extensively investigated, and findings are not as consistent as the above. While one study found a significant positive effect on performance when either classical or rock and roll music was played during testing, two studies found no significant effect when classical, baroque or jazz music was played during testing. Another study reported a significant positive effect of classical and baroque music played during testing on vocabulary recall when students were tested immediately after learning but not when testing took place after one week. There is an indication, however, that best results are achieved when the same music is played both during learning and during testing. The two studies which investigated the effect of the reinstatement of the learning conditions during testing found this.
In terms of the effectiveness of different types of music, the findings of the majority of studies discussed here lend strong support to the special effectiveness of baroque and classical pieces, as originally suggested by Lozanov (1978). However, it must be pointed out that this type of music has also been most extensively used and tested. Other types of music have only been sporadically tested in the same context. Yet the three studies which investigated jazz or rock music did not find these types of music to be effective in learning. One study, however, found rock music effective during testing. A study which investigated the effect of easy-listening music, which shared characteristics with the classical music found most effective for suggestopedic teaching in the GDR, also found this type of music effective in improving on-task behaviour. When making statements about the relative effectiveness of music in learning, it is important to give either exact titles or an accurate description of the musical piece used. It is not possible to state categorically that classical music is more effective in learning than pop music, since it appears that the individual properties of the pieces are important factors in the outcome.
Although there is strong support for the effectiveness of music in learning, we still know little about how the reported effects of music on learning are actually achieved. In the context of the studies reviewed here the effectiveness of music can be explained in several ways. Music appears to create a more pleasant learning environment in terms of affective criteria (Schuster & Mouzon 1982) which may improve performance. It further appears to have the potential to affect concentration and attention rate and in turn improve on-task behaviour (Davidson & Powell 1986). Music also appears to be associated with physiological effects such as a lowered heartrate (Blanchard 1979) and increased alpha brain waves (Lozanov 1978) which may be instrumental in improved performance. Finally, studies which included the reinstatement of music during testing (Schuster & Mouzon 1982, Smith 1985) indicate that context-cuing may be involved.