Psychologists working in the area of music perception have theorised that the evolutionary origins of music are linked to the benefits of social bonding for early humans. This has led to an interest in studying musical traits in individuals with social and communication impairments. In the lecture I will present results from empirical studies of music perception in Williams Syndrome and Autism and show that whilst such work may inform our understanding of musicality and the origins of music, conclusions from current theoretical accounts are contradicted by the available scientific evidence.
Pamela Heaton is Professor of Psychology at Goldsmiths College, University of London. Her primary research interest is in developmental disorders, especially autism. Since completing her PhD on musical cognition in autism in 1999, she has been a principal researcher or research group leader on EU and ESRC grant applications investigating remediation of sensory abnormalities, pitch and colour discrimination and memory, and colour categorisation in autism. Before studying psychology she trained as a classical singer and retains a strong interest in the cognitive neuropsychology of music. In particular she is interested in how musical information processing distinguishes atypical and typically developing children and adolescents. Prof Heaton’s current interests mainly focus on investigating the relationship between speech and music perception in autism, SLI, Down syndrome and typical development.