This article in Live Science is a condensation of an article in Psychological Science that found (in their control group of 20--ten Americans and ten recently-arrived people from East Asia who were hooked up to brain-scanning equipment) that it was more difficult for Americans to make relative judgements and more difficult for people from East Asia to make absolute judgements. The study also suggests that exposure to a new culture might alter the brain, but that is yet to be determined by another study.
This study concludes that people from different cultures don’t see the world differently, but they think differently about what they see. Common sense tells me that this may be true, but I don't understand how somebody could come to any kind of conclusion about the way people think by using a control group of 20 people coming from two rather broad "cultures." America, being a constantly-evolving "melting pot," has many cultures, and East Asia not only has many cultures and languages, it has many countries.
It would be (hypothetically) interesting to hook up my new "crop" of music appreciation students to brain scanners (a control group of around 50) at the beginning of the semester, and then again at the end of the semester, and see if they think differently about what they hear (have more brain activity, or what have you) after being exposed to the "culture" of "classical" music, but I imagine it would be a great waste of time, because my experience tells me that the way individual people respond to new cultural material like "classical" music varies from person to person. Listening to and enjoying classical music is based a great deal on personal sensual experience. I hear statements from my novice students like, "this sounds familiar," or "I have heard this before somewhere," or even, later in the semester, "this sounds like Beethoven."
Are those judgements relative or absolute? I haven't a clue.
Tags: music appreciation, classical music and the brain