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Why should we study music?

Many argue that the arts are not worth studying because they are difficult to fit into the experimental paradigm. Others assume that studying them would not add to their appreciation since the arts lack clear objective criteria for quality. In addition, many people feel that few "practical" applications will result from studying the arts.

Contrary to these beliefs, studies such as Smets' have shown that the stimuli which elicit aesthetic pleasure are not arbitrary (thus disproving the first and second arguments). Many practical applications may result from studying the arts as each of us is exposed to art, specifically music, daily in supermarkets, restaurants, theaters, clubs, cars, and homes. Roger Brown wrote in the inaugural issue of Psychomusicology that there are:

... artifacts suggesting the existence of music for as long a period as there are clear signs of the human species. And human societies with no music ... have never been found. It... seems that music has a better claim than language to be considered uniquely human (Brown, 1981).

Music is part of what makes us who we are; therefore psychology, as the science of the mind, has an obligation to study it.

Hilary Schaefer ('98) is a Psychology major with a minor in English.

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