"One beneficial effect of the careful scientific probing of listeners' experiences is that it often demonstrates their hidden musical competence. Studies of encoding and memory reveal musical intelligence in people's recall errors: they tend to substitute a note or chord that serves a similar musical function. This shows that they have subconsciously internalized the rules of musical grammar. Other studies show that the ability to sing in tune can be dramatically improved by simple well-targeted feedback, suggesting that many abilities are already in place but are masked by the absence of one simple cognitive component."More and more evidence is provided, by research teams in both Europe and North-America, that shows that responses of musically untrained listeners tend to be highly correlated with those of musically trained listeners (including our own Internet study on musical competence and the role of exposure that will be presented next week at the Music and Language conference organized by Tufts University in Boston). These studies suggest that musical competence can be improved (or altered) by mere exposure to music, without the help of explicit training. Listen and learn, indeed.
Sloboda, J. (2008). Science and Music: The ear of the beholder. Nature, 454(7200), 32-33. DOI: 10.1038/454032a