Re: Howe Comms 13-15 Detterman Ericsson Freeman

From: Elliott Mark (
Date: Thu May 07 1998 - 11:36:05 BST

Reply to Christopher Dunn: Detterman et al. Absurd environmentalism

Detterman claims that the authors of the target article ignore that
general I.Q is a strong factor in musical ability and that their
methodology is flawed. They criticise the authors for selecting
talented individuals to study, as they have pre selected their sample,
just as to select a basketball team to study height and baskets
scored. Basket ball players have already been pre-selected because
they are tall, thus all the musical subjects selected had good genes
and lots of practice.

> Retrospective accounts of musical talent. Much of the literature on
> musical accomplishment is retrospective as acknowledged by Howe,
> Davidson, and Sloboda. Groups of musically skilled subjects are
> identified and then studied. This approach is useless for
> identifying musical talent. The problem is that the groups are
> self-selected on the very variable of interest.. Suppose we
> correlate the height of National Basketball Association (NBA)
> players with the number of points they score. This correlation is
> close to zero. Should one conclude that height is unimportant in
> professional basketball? That would be foolish. But that is what
> Howe, Davidson, and Sloboda do.

They claim that individuals with low I.Q will never be good at music,
but what about autistic savants? Surely they have very low I.Q but a
talent for music. Also if talent is domain specific surely Some one
can have an exceptional talent in one area have a poor I.Q.

i agree with the criticism made concerning the methodology - i also
agree with Chris's point about low IQ and possible musical talent. I
believe that a relationship between music and IQ may only exist as a
secondary function. for example the studies which have revealed a
relationship between musical ability and general intelligence and
retarded persons and low musical ability may have been the result of
retarded persons not having the opportunity to be trained, or trained
as much, as "normal" persons because they may have to concentrate
their efforts on other areas to help them with living a more normal
life in society. there will of course be exceptions to the rule.
therefore i am proposing that musical ability is learnt and comes
with practice. another explanation may be that a person with an
inbuilt musical ability (ie. in their genes) will learn to play music
more easily and general intelligence may only play a role in musical
ability when a person is not predisposed with an inborn musical
talent. in this case people with normal or high IQ scores will be
able to learn musical ability better than retarded persons, but if
that retarded person has the correct biological make-up then they
will be able to acquire musical talent just as or more efficiently.
it also follows that "normal" persons with the correct biological
make-up will be the best at acquiring a musical talent. in each case
i believe that the talent is learnt but facilitated by appropriate

another thought i have rampqaging through my diorganised mind is that
music and IQ may not be related at all. IQ tests ask questionws
which, in my point of view cannot be related to music. for example
how can rotating shapes or solving mathematical problems be at all
useful to learning an art?

The fact that people do not get uniform musical training or
have equal interest in music means that genetic factors are

totally agree. you tell'em Chris.

 Until someone discovers the music talent gene some radically
unethical longitudinal experiment to settle it, the argument will
just go on and on without end. Although Detterman claims it could be
settled a hypothetical experiment such as

> If Howe, Sloboda, and Davidson still believe in absurd
> environmentalism they can easily convert us to their point of view.
> Simply randomly select 100 persons with mental retardation and 100
> persons of high IQ and give them 10 years of deliberate practice. If
> , at the end of the 10 years, both groups are equally outstanding
> musicians, we will be instantly converted to their position.
> Further, they will have done an exceptional social service by
> supplying mentally retarded persons with a profession.
> Unfortunately, we know from existing literature it will become clear
> that they are wrong well before the 10 years are up. Deliberate
> practice, important though it is to exceptional accomplishment, will
> not equalise outcome despite the best of intentions.

They also claim there are societal reasons why the practice theory is
more acceptable, to our capitalist culture, if you work hard you will
do well if you don't you will fail, and its your own fault. However
supporting this line gets people to work hard but does not help us
solve the argument. Also if people started blaming the genes for every
screw up they made, it would make problems in society even more
complicated and difficult to solve.

yes. absolutely. it surely can't be blamed solely on genes. i also
think that it can't be blamed solely on work rate. it is a
combination of the two which may determine ability. for example
correct genes and practice is the only combination which may leasd to
outstanding ability. poor genetic make-up and practice may result
in good or average ability. no practice at all with any kind of
genetic make-up will result in poor ability. after all in an ability
such as music it requires learning a set of rules - whether it be to
learn appropriate motor control and hane position, what each key
sounds like and reading the music for example. without learning
these rules from teaching and/or practice the ability may lay dormant
and undiscovered.

the authors in the quotre above state :
"Deliberate practice, important though it is to exceptional
accomplishment, will not equalise outcome despite the best of
intentions". however i still believe that it is practice that makes
the talent. the 100 retarded and 100 normal persons will of course
differ in ability after a time despite the same amount of practice
but their ability to learn an art may be the influencing variable an
not IQ score which reflects the ability to learn and work out
matematical formulae. also what the practice contains is important.
people may differ despite the same amount of practice because they
are practicing slightly different things. for example hane movements
across the instruments will differ from person to person - some
techniques will be more effective than others and it may take time
for persons to find the best technique suited to them. others may
find their best technique relatively early in the practicing. those
who do not find their best tecnique for playing an instrument (or for
any thing) may find themselves practicing slightly the wrong thing.
this copmbined with other slightly small errors will produce the
different learning rates.

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