Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Music and Raven’s Progressive Matrices

Elsewhere I have noted that the Raven’s Progressive Matrices intelligence test may be the nearest thing humans have to a pure time and space test. The Raven’s temporal/spatial problem domain, natural to autistic perception and cognition, helps explain why autistic individuals perform so differentially well on that particular test.

Yet now that I think about it, there is at least one other human endeavor that shares a similar structure to the Raven’s test—namely music. The roles played by rhythm, melody and harmony are quite analogous to the roles played by time, space and conceptual pattern in Raven’s, and the well-documented affinity and natural ability for music that many autistic individuals display is further suggestive of an underlying connection.

Time, space, geometry, arithmetic, logic, melody, harmony, rhythm, games, rules, syntax—these concepts run along the contours and fault lines of autistic cognition, and understanding their connection helps to highlight the nature of autistic perception and to characterize its contribution to human endeavor. Music and the Raven’s intelligence test are not random gewgaws from the stream of life—their prominence derives from a correlation to the forces driving the human species forward.

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