Auditory aptitudes and other aptitudes

The association between music and math has had a long history of theoretical support partly because of the similar basic principles and relationships within both areas. Music training has been shown to be associated with an increase in spatial and math skills in young children in an experimental intervention (Rauscher & Hinton, 2011). However some research has found that the relationship is not absolute—one study found that mathematicians were not more likely to be musical (Haimson, Swain, & Winner, 2011), though that study did not involve auditory ability tests. We wanted to know more about the relationship between auditory abilities and numerical abilities. We found that the auditory aptitude scores were correlated with scores for the tests of Number Series, Paper Folding, Wiggly Block, Memory for Design, and English Vocabulary.

The auditory aptitudes have also been thought to be associated with the pronunciation and intonation aspects of foreign languages. In an earlier questionnaire study conducted by the Foundation, foreign language learning and auditory abilities were associated. People who stated that foreign languages were “easy to learn” had higher auditory scores (SB 2011-19) compared to others who did not feel that way about foreign languages. We explored this further by looking at college majors, and found that examinees who had majored in a foreign language had higher than average auditory aptitudes, as can be seen below.

College majors and occupations

Next, the levels of the auditory scores were examined for individuals grouped by their college major that was stated on the information sheet. There were about 38,000 examinees in this dataset who were either in college or had been in college, and for whom we had college major information.

Quite a few college majors stood out as groups in which the mean level of one of the auditory scores was higher than average (i.e., z > .20, which is about the 58th percentile). Foreign languages, humanities, mathematics, medicine, philosophy, physical science, and theater were all college majors in which people had notably high auditory scores. For occupations, the auditory aptitudes were generally higher for examinees in careers such as architects, medical doctors, professors, theater artists, and writers, as well as musicians.

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