Musical training mediates the relation between working memory capacity and preference for musical complexity

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Previous research has examined the relationships among cognitive variables and musical training, but relatively less attention has addressed downstream effects of musical training on other psychological domains, such as aesthetic preference, and the potential impact of domain-general constructs, such as working memory. Accordingly, the present study sought to draw links between musical training, working memory capacity, and preference for musical complexity. Participants were assessed for their experience with musical training, their working-memory capacity, and their preference for musical complexity. Diverging from predictions based on vision research, our analyses revealed that musical training significantly mediated the association between working memory capacity and preference for music complexity. This significant mediation held even after a variety of sociodemographic variables (gender, education, socioeconomic status) were taken into account. Furthermore, the role of working memory capacity was domain general, such that the mediation was significant regardless of which measure of working memory capacity was used (tone, operation, or symmetry span). The current results develop a model of aesthetic preference that illuminates differences between vision and audition in terms of the multifaceted effects of complex skills training on cognition and affect. Moreover, they drive new work aimed at better understanding how domain-general constructs such as working memory capacity might interact with domain-specific cognition.

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Memory & cognition

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