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W3352: Research Methods
Congenital Amusia: Mistaken Self-Diagnosis? Tone Deafness, or Amusia, is the lack of relative pitch, or the inability to distinguish between musical notes. Two main classifications of Amusia exist: acquired Amusia, which occurs as a result of brain damage, and congenital Amusia, which results from a music processing anomaly at birth. This surprisingly common medical condition (approximately 4% of the population suffers from the disorder) is perhaps one of the most self-diagnosed in the world, yet this title is often not true. It is not uncommon, when having a discussion related to music in any way, to hear someone utter the phrase “I’m totally Tone Deaf”. Is this really the case? Does this person genuinely suffer from Tone Deafness, or Amusia? Or are they, instead, simply not particularly musical and have given themselves the label of ‘Tone Deaf’? Rationale: This issue is one I have a particular personal interest in due to the fact that my own mother often claims to be Tone Deaf. My mother’s many talents, unfortunately, do not include music, and she has not been blessed with a particularly good singing voice, which I believe has led to her believing that she is indeed Tone Deaf. However, I have heard her, on many occasions, singing various songs relatively in tune, Paul McCartney’s ‘Heart of the Country’ being a particular favourite. Therefore, when I hear her proclaim to be Tone Deaf, I often wonder if she genuinely believes herself to be Tone Deaf, or simply says this for comic effect. Regardless, I often find myself thinking how interesting it would be to compare and contrast those who claim to be Tone Deaf, and those who have been medically diagnosed as suffering from Amusia. Further to this personal rationale, there are various professional reasons for carrying out such a research project. Due to the fact that this particular ailment can be very easily misunderstood, this research would help shed some light on the subject. With a better understanding of Amusia, several beneficial steps can then be taken: those who genuinely suffer from Amusia will be given a better understanding of how it works and what exactly has happened to cause it. This is perhaps the biggest justification for research into this area as suffering from such a thing as Amusia would have a huge effect on the sufferer, essentially meaning the sufferer cannot appreciate any form of music whatsoever, from a simply melody to a full-scale symphony and everything in-between. Not being able to appreciate or take any enjoyment from something that, seemingly, everyone else in that person’s life can take enjoyment from must be an incredibly frustrating circumstance. Even a limited knowledge of how or why this condition has occurred will offer some understanding and perhaps even some comfort to the sufferer. Furthermore, experienced musicians, such as W. A. Mathieu, actually believe tone deafness in adults to be correctable with training. If this is indeed a condition that can be cured through training, a better understanding of the condition is an absolute necessity it would allow those genuine sufferers of Amusia the chance to rid themselves of the condition and start to experience the pleasure and joy that music can bring to the 1

very few sufferers of Amusia would refuse. As people grew more aware of what exactly this ailment was and why it happened. and those who did may even be able to be cured of it. in its true sense. Between study of Oliver Sacks work and study of the above work.200716333 listener. and language skills. was a further help in understanding exactly what congenital Amusia was. given the opportunity. written and researched by Oliver Sacks. hearing loss. where before they had felt held back by their belief of being Tone Deaf. perhaps even having the courage to learn an instrument. those who believe themselves to be Tone Deaf may be able to shake the false belief that they actually suffer from it. This.1 This study perfectly highlights exactly what Amusia. despite normal audiometry and above-average intellectual. much in the same way as many language-processing difficulties arise from deficiencies in auditory temporal resolution. The results of psychophysical tests show that Monica has severe difficulties with detecting pitch changes. 1 http://www. This disorder refers to a musical disability that cannot be explained by prior brain lesion. I thought it would be interesting to research why people are brought to believe themselves to be Tone Deaf. Musicophilia: Tales of Music and the Brain This book. I found this to be particularly helpful when deciding on what exact angle to approach this proposal from. who lacks most basic musical abilities. A professional benefit also lies with those who believe themselves to be Tone Deaf and are not. Furthermore. the work previously reviewed. cognitive deficits. including melodic discrimination and recognition. Compounded with the fact that my own mother.cell. or lack of environmental stimulation. That the published findings point to the fact that. something that. This musical impairment is diagnosed in a middle-aged woman. could perhaps lead to this group of people broadening their musical horizons. due to the fact that limited access is given to this particular work. essentially. less and less people would claim to suffer from Amusia. socioaffective disturbance. it was more beneficial to review this piece of literature in combination with ‘Congenital Amusia: A disorder of fine-grained pitch discrimination’. in turn. anyone can be born with Amusia and that it is not something that is developed through lack of musical training was something I found fascinating. memory. when compared and contrasted to those who genuinely suffer from the condition. it would be interesting to note how those perceptions would then change. it became clear to me that this particular area of music was one that I wanted to focus on. as well as many others. a huge professional benefit to this research would be the fact that the ‘myth’ of Tone Deafness would start to fade. 2 . Literature Review: Congenital Amusia: A disorder of fine-grained pitch discrimination: This reports the first documented case of congenital Amusia. claim to be ‘Tone Deaf’ on a regular basis. hereafter referred to as Monica. If given an understanding of what this concept truly meant. The data suggest that music-processing difficulties may result from problems in fine-grained discrimination of pitch. means. Finally.

Clients will be asked to attend one of two focus groups. developed by Peretz and collaborators. aside from an initial gathering of the client’s age. regular churchgoers. Immediately. a broad cross-section of society would be gathered. published the conclusion that many individuals who consider themselves "tone-deaf" may not. or perhaps actually are. and will be aimed at. in fact. The research carried out would be both qualitative and quantitative. nor believing themselves to This study was concerned with self-reported "tone deafness" and its possible relationship to congenital Amusia. The advantages of using this particular client group. This therefore ensures as broad a range of results as possible. have perceptual difficulties. a chance to contribute to the project’s success. To ensure as broad a cross-section of society is reached as is possible. This means the client group find themselves in the position of having to sing with a group of others at least once a week. This research. which will be held over the course of a day on two separate occasions. Despite this group not being absolutely necessary for the research. One would hope to gather those who have had littleto-no musical training as well as current professional musicians. those who are able and confident enough to sing with the congregation can be recognised as neither being. clarifying what each individual participant’s personal understanding of 3 .200716333 Montreal Battery of Evaluation of Amusia: http://cat. occupation and previous musical education. are that in most churches. The test devised by this research project also fitted perfectly with the nature of the test proposed to be given to individuals who believe themselves to be tone deaf. Upon reading this conclusion. Methodology: The methodology of carrying out this research is relatively straightforward. which the congregation is encouraged to join in with. I realized that this tied in perfectly with my own research proposal. Tone Deaf. with each individual research method bringing unique advantages to the project. This survey will be given out to the entire client group at one stage of the process. firstly. and these individuals should be supported in any of their efforts to proceed with music enjoyment and instruction. The client group will be asked to complete a survey comprising of. desirable due to the need for those who believe themselves to be Tone Deaf. and for those who do not. it is proposed to advertise the research in as many local churches as possible within a 10-mile radius. Two focus group will be held in an attempt to gather as much interest as possible and also to give clients who may be unavailable on the date of the first focus group. This particular client group will be given a second survey. gender. Tone Deaf. their thoughts and opinions on Amusia will be extremely useful.inist. consisting of as many different types of people as possible. and it is proposed that the format of the MBEA tests are used within this research project. yet are still interested in the research project. there are hymns sung. this time qualitative in nature. Within this cross section. questions designed purely to identify those individuals who believe themselves to be. a great variety in musical training is of vital importance. every week. Ideally.

each client will then be administered a simple test to determine whether or not they genuinely suffer from Amusia. Quantitative research. The reason for this non-participation can then be identified through another survey: do they not believe they have a good enough singing voice to contribute? Does someone next to them who happens to be a good singer intimidate them? Do they simply lack social confidence? Are they being lazy. Furthermore. ensuring that as much time as possible is spent with those clients who believe themselves to be Tone Deaf.200716333 the term ‘Tone Deafness’. aiming to highlight to the client the difference between perceived Tone Deafness and genuine Amusia. The size of the donation made will be dependant on how many clients take part in the project. it does leave the surveys and question open to abuse in that those in attendance may be simply 4 . why the client believes he/she is Tone Deaf. the majority of the data collection within the project will be achieved through qualitative research. or Tone Deafness. However. there may be some encouragement for people who do not regularly attend some form of church and therefore do not sing regularly within a group. and choosing not to sing? With the final question simply asking if the client believes his or her self to be Tone Deaf. The benefits of carrying out a small amount quantitative research within this project are huge. a ‘reward scheme’ will be offered for those taking part. The interview will cover. Tone Deaf. despite not truly suffering from Amusia. due to the fact that as broad a cross section of society as possible is desirable. Due to the fact that most clients will be from one of the churches that the research project has been advertised in. through the surveys presented to the clients. upon hearing that donations are being made for each client representing their church. it is proposed that each for each client attending the research project. The reliability of the data gathered during this research will be given upmost importance. To ensure reliability of the data. the survey will ask if they know of anyone who believe themselves. Upon completion of this survey. a final short amount of information will be presented. It is essential to separate the client group into groups based on whether or not they believe themselves to be Tone Deaf. Whilst not necessarily damaging to the project. the small group of clients who believe they suffer from Tone Deafness will be interviewed one-by-one. This is necessary due to the fact that each individual client has to be allowed freedom to express why he or she believes they are Tone Deaf. or who the individual believes to be. Finally. Upon identifying the group of clients who are able to sing on a regular basis. a donation will be made to that client’s church funds. attention can be turned to those members of the congregation who do not sing as part of the congregation whilst at church. firstly. as well as what they believe Tone Deafness to be. Possible problems to this are that. If it transpires that the client does not suffer from Amusia. The clients who believe themselves to be Tone Deaf will then be introduced to genuine sufferers of the condition and the differences in how each individual perceives music will be highlighted to both genuine sufferers and those who only believe they are sufferers. Secondly. the client will be asked to describe what he/she believes Tone Deafness to be. This is crucial to the project as it is this information that will form the basis for understanding as to why people believe to be Tone Deaf. are the best way to quickly and accurately achieve this.

200716333 answering as simply as possible. In an attempt to ensure that this is the case. why? If not. it would have a 5 . why? Do you ever feel that you are not good enough a singer to contribute? Do you ever feel that you are Tone Deaf? Do you know of anyone who believes themselves to be Tone Deaf? Do you know of anyone who you believe to be Tone Deaf? Timeline: Research project advertised in various churches over a 6-week period. there is little that can be done to combat this possible problem. with the research gathered being entirely dependant on the focus groups and the answers given by the clients. there is little that can be done to combat those who simply attend to ensure a donation to their church and therefore do not put any thought or effort into the answers they give. However. Firstly. if none at all. Unfortunately. do you join the congregation in singing hymns? If so. why? Do you think you are a good singer? If so. it is of vital importance that these are well attended and answered as honestly as possible. 1st focus group held with clients over one day 2nd focus group held with clients over one day Results of the focus groups are compiled Those identified as believing themselves to be Tone Deaf are invited to interview Results of interviews are compiled Results consolidated and presented with findings and conclusions from research Possible Issues: There are various issues facing the success of the project. Furthermore. it may transpire that very few. Research Questions: Surveys: Gender? Age? Occupation? Musical Background. However. combined with as many numbers as possible. If this situation were to occur. if any? Whilst at church. why? If not. believe themselves to be Tone Deaf within the group of clients that attend the focus groups. only interested in finishing and securing a donation for the church. it is assumed that this ‘reward scheme’ will ensure greater overall numbers for the project in comparison to those who have been attracted purely for the financial gain. as discussed. a reward scheme has been set up to boost numbers at the focus groups and ultimately give as broad a cross section of society as possible.

Canada Montreal Battery of Evaluation of Amusia: http://cat.200716333 fatal effect on the project as.blogspot.oxfordjournals. Concordia University. Penfield. Montreal. * . Québec. Quebec H3A 1B1. LOLA L. HOLDEN Department of Psychology. 6128 succursale Centreville.inist. 2. Pierre Ahad6. References: http://ListeningBookAudio. Canada 
 3 Montreal Neurological Institute. 4565 Queen Mary. CUDDY. 5. 7141 Sherbrooke W. via Beirut 4. McGill University. AND RONALD R. Montreal. Ontario. Montreal. Canada Musicophilia: Tales of Music and the Brain Oliver Sacks: http://www. Montreal. 2.full Congenital Amusia: A disorder of fine-grained pitch discrimination Isabelle Peretz1. http://brain. Robert J. Canada 
 7 Psychology Department. Cognitive Neuroscience.S. Institut Universitaire de Gériatrie de Montréal. Canada 
 2 Research Centre. Montreal. Zatorre3. K7L 3N6.C. University of Montreal. Canada 
 4 International School for Advanced Studies. Quebec H3W 1W5. Quebec H3A 2B4. 3801 University. Virginia B. Julie Ayotte1. Montréal. Boulevard Raspail. Quebec H3C 3J7. France 
 6 Psychology Department. Jacques 6 . Université de Montréal. McGill H3C 3J7.. Quebec H4B1R6. Queen’s University. Canada Département de Psychologie. LAURA-LEE BALKWILL. 34014 Trieste. 54. ISABELLE PERETZ.P. 75006 Paris. there would be no need for the latter stages of the timeline and therefore no data to consolidate or findings to publish. essentially. Italy
 5 L.P.htm http://amusia-brain. 1205 Dr. Penhune7 1 2 Department of