Musical aptitude testing: From James McKeen Cattell to Carl Emil Seashore

Jere Humphreys

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


The purpose of this article is to describe the links between late nineteenth-century psychological research and the early musical aptitude research of Carl Emil Seashore (1866-1949). The primary link was the music-related research of the leader of the mental testing movement during the 1890s, Columbia University psychologist James McKeen Cattell (1860-1944). German psychologist Wilhelm Wundt instructed Cattell in the German scientific tradition, and English researcher Francis Galton encouraged Cattell's research on individual differences and introduced him to statistical methods. During the 1890s, Cattell conducted a longitudinal study, the hypothesis for which was that tests of sensory discrimination ability, including musical discrimination, would correlate with undergraduates' academic grades. After his study failed to produce the expected results, the mental testing movement followed Alfred Binet and Victor Henri of France, and Cattell turned to other activities. However, in the meantime, Cattell influenced many other important psychologists, including Edward W. Scripture, Carl Seashore's doctoral mentor at Yale University, and eventually Seashore himself. Despite the mental testing movement's shift to Binet and Henri's cognitive-type testing, Seashore continued his conservative, sensory approach to the testing of musical aptitude.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)42-53
Number of pages12
JournalResearch Studies in Music Education
Issue number1
StatePublished - 1998

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education
  • Music


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