Decoding Speech Prosody: Do Music Lessons Help?

William Forde Thompson*, E. Glenn Schellenberg, Gabriela Husain

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

256 Citations (Scopus)


Three experiments revealed that music lessons promote sensitivity to emotions conveyed by speech prosody. After hearing semantically neutral utterances spoken with emotional (i.e., happy, sad, fearful, or angry) prosody, or tone sequences that mimicked the utterances' prosody, participants identified the emotion conveyed. In Experiment 1 (n = 20), musically trained adults performed better than untrained adults. In Experiment 2 (n = 56), musically trained adults outperformed untrained adults at identifying sadness, fear, or neutral emotion. In Experiment 3 (n = 43), 6-year-olds were tested after being randomly assigned to I year of keyboard, vocal, drama, or no lessons. The keyboard group performed equivalently to the drama group and better than the no-lessons group at identifying anger or fear.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)46-64
Number of pages19
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2004
Externally publishedYes


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