Precursors of Musical Aptitude Testing: From the Greeks through the Work of Francis Galton

Jere Humphreys

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5 Scopus citations


Carl E. Seashore's tests of musical aptitude, originally published in 1919, were a logical outgrowth of first, centuries of research and thinking on sensory discrimination and specification, and second, applications to psychological research of Charles Darwin's theory of evolution. These two fields came together when English anthropologist Francis Galton (1822-1911) devised tests of sensory perception to test individual mental capacity in the 1870s and 1880s. Galton, who modeled his tests on those devised previously by physicists, included measures of musical perception in his test batteries. He believed that individual differences are quantifiable and that discrete measures of sensory acuity, including musical discrimination, would provide at least an indirect measure of intelligence. Galton influenced American psychologist James Cattell (1860-1944), who in turn influenced Seashore. Because Seashore, like all experimental psychologists of his day, was a sensory psychologist, he produced tests that were criticized from the beginning for being sensory and atomistic. Nevertheless, Seashore's work fired the imaginations and profoundly influenced the work of the first generation of American music education researchers.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)315-327
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Research in Music Education
Issue number4
StatePublished - Dec 1993

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education
  • Music


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