Enculturation effects in music cognition: The role of age and music complexity

Steven J. Morrison, Steven M. Demorest, Laura A. Stambaugh

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

40 Scopus citations


The authors replicate and extend findings from previous studies of music enculturation by comparing music memory performance of children to that of adults when listening to culturally familiar and unfamiliar music. Forty-three children and 50 adults, all born and raised in the United States, completed a music memory test comprising unfamiliar excerpts of Western and Turkish classical music. Examples were selected at two levels of difficulty - simple and complex - based on texture, instrument variety, presence of simultaneous musical lines, and clarity of internal repetition. All participants were significantly better at remembering novel music from their own culture than from an unfamiliar culture. Simple examples from both cultures were remembered significantly better than complex examples. Children performed as well as adults when remembering simple music from both cultures, whereas adults were better at remembering complex Western music. The results provide evidence that enculturation affects one's understanding of music structure before adulthood.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)118-129
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Research in Music Education
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2008


  • Cross-cultural listening
  • Elementary listeners
  • Enculturation
  • Music complexity
  • Music memory

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education
  • Music


Dive into the research topics of 'Enculturation effects in music cognition: The role of age and music complexity'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this