What is knowledge rich? Part 8: beware this cognitive science

In the current discourse surrounding bringing back knowledge and the drive towards knowledge-led and knowledge-rich curriculum the authority of cognitive science is frequently brought forward as a key witness. Learning comes to be positioned around a cluster of fundamentals arrived at through research deploying scientific method. In particular learning becomes circumscribed by a focus on memory and the effective processing of information and the retention of knowledge.

This gives rise to the belief that there can be a best way, based on robust scientific evidence, to teach children if they are to learn in an efficient and effective manner.

However, music as a subject of the curriculum is distinguished by being informed by a longstanding psychology of music all of its own. Is music as a school subject unique in this respect?

Today there is a burgeoning cognitive science of music, but there is also an emerging field – the psychology of musical development.

The scope of Hargreaves and Lamont’s ‘The Psychology of Musical Development’ [1] goes way beyond the narrow focus on memory and knowledge retention and offers a rich source of insights into musical development and human flourishing, for example.

It is interesting to note that those linking knowledge richness and the bringing back of knowledge to the wisdom of cognitive science pay scant attention to developmental psychology. In fact the term ‘developmentalism’ is sometimes used to denote some kind of rejection of knowledge.

Music teachers beware cognitive science without recourse to the wisdom of the cognitive psychology of music, the developmental psychology of music and the cognitive science of music.


[1] Hargreaves, D.  and Lamont, A. (2017) The Psychology of Musical Development. Cambridge University Press.








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