Thursday, 25 February 2016

Research Seminar, Nina Politimou, Middlesex University


Date: Thursday 10th March
Location: Town Hall Committee Room 2
Time: 16:00-17:00
Title: Musical and Linguistic Processing in Young Children: The Role of the Home Musical Environment

Abstract: Research on the relationship between formal musical training and linguistic abilities has been burgeoning over the last decade. However, a significant gap can be found when looking at the beginning of the developmental path of such abilities: whereas something is known about infants and a significant amount has been learned about school-aged children, very little is known about pre-schoolers. Aiming to fill this gap, this PhD research has moved along two interlocking paths - on the one hand, studying the early relationship between processing of both music and language, and on the other, bringing into the discussion a dimension so far unexplored, that is the influence of informal musical interactions and of the home musical environment on early musical and linguistic development.
Study 1 aims to examine: a) the relationship between a range of musical skills and linguistic development in 3- and 4-year-old children and, b) the role of the home musical environment on linguistic and musical skills on this age group. Participating children completed age-appropriate musical tasks designed ad-hoc for this experiment and standardized measures evaluating the development of language structure, phonological awareness, verbal and non-verbal ability. Parents completed self-reports about their musical profile and frequency and type of musical interactions within the family. Preliminary findings point to a particularly strong link between rhythm perception abilities and phonological awareness skills suggesting that at least certain features of language and music may rely on common learning mechanisms. The home musical environment appears to be strongly associated with language structure and verbal ability, suggesting that informal home interactions, may serve as scaffolding for extracting and internalizing linguistic structures and information from the environment.
The observed association between the home musical environment and aspects of linguistic development warranted for the development of an appropriate tool to further explore this understudied area. Therefore, the aim of Study 2 is to develop and validate the Musical Experience in the Family Questionnaire into an instrument with good psychometric properties. The new questionnaire (Music@Home questionnaire) is designed for both infants and pre-schoolers, with the ultimate aim of addressing the origin of the developmental trajectory of the relationship between home musical experience and language development. Responses from 630 participants have been collected via an online survey and exploratory factor analysis is being used to identify different dimensions (e.g., parental attitudes towards music) that will correspond to sub-scales of the questionnaire.

Musical skills, language development, informal musical experience, preschoolers

Biography: Nina Politimou completed her BSc in Psychology in the National and Kapodistrian University of Athens in Greece, and graduated with a diploma in harmony and theory of music from the Raymonde Conservatory in Athens. She continued her MSc studies in Cognitive Psychology and Neuropsychology at the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, Greece, where she participated in a number of research projects examining various aspects of neurocognitive processing in healthy and clinical populations. 
Her current research at Middlesex University examines the relationship between musical and linguistic abilities in 3- and 4-year old children. Another aim of this project is to explore a so far understudied area, that is the influence of informal musical interactions and of the home musical environment on early musical and linguistic development.

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