Date Thesis Awarded
Honors Thesis -- Open Access
Bachelors of Arts (BA)
There is an ongoing debate as to whether the processing of complex systems (such as language, mathematics, and music) is domain-general or domain-specific. Language, math, and music all involve cognitive systems that organize discrete elements in a hierarchical manner. If processing is domain-general, then the structures of these systems would be processed using shared mental mechanisms. Previous studies suggest that language and math share mental mechanisms for building hierarchically structured representations in real time. This thesis explores the possibility that these mental mechanisms are also shared by the cognitive systems for processing music. An experiment was designed to reveal whether the structures of musical phrases and mathematical expressions can prime equivalent structures in English sentences. Participants listened to musical recordings and solved mathematical equations, after which they completed target sentence fragments that were structurally ambiguous with regard to relative clause attachment. Findings from this study could potentially impact the extent to which human language processing is seen as domain-general or domain-specific. If humans process the structures of musical phrases and math equations similarly to that of linguistic expressions, this would suggest that these domains share mental mechanisms.
LaRose, Robert Anthony, "The Language of Music and Math: An Investigation of Cross-Domain Effects of Structural Priming" (2016). Undergraduate Honors Theses. William & Mary. Paper 946.
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