emotioinHi all, after a recent discussion with colleagues regarding the the lens in which we, as therapists, assess and work with client’s specifically in the areas of affect or emotion and cognition, several questions emerged that I like to ask the good folks who follow and read this blog. I would love to hear what others think.

So, here goes::

1) is it possible for the T music therapists to assess emotion or affect through a cognitive lens?

2) Is it possible to assess affect or emotion without context of an emotional experience?

3) Is it possible to assess cognition without considering emotional or effective processes? (in other words, can cognition be assessed as an isolated domain area?)

4) If any of the above are answered with “yes,” does that imply that emotion can be “taught”‘ through cognitive processes ( such as teaching a child the emotion of anger through a song that includes the theme of anger, or via a photo of an angry face).

5) Can emotion be assessed and fostered or “learned” via relational experiences that embody emotion or affect (in other words, “learning affect or emotion, through and in actual experiences)? Thoughts?

In thinking about I began to think about a terrific chapter written by Dr. Stanley Greenspan , The Affect Diathesis Hypothesis.  The chapter is taken from the ground breaking book: The First Idea: How Symbols, Language, & Intelligence Evolved from Our Primate Ancestors to Modern HumansAlthough Greenspan contextualizes that particular chapter within autism spectrum disorders, he is basing his theory on typical child development.

Thanks for reading, folks!




About drjohnmtbc

John A. Carpente, PhD, MT-BC, LCAT, NRMT, Assistant Professor in Music and Music Therapy at Molloy College, is the Founder and Executive Dir

5 responses »

  1. Mike Zanders says:

    Hi John,
    Intriguing questions which prompted me to write something.

    First, I agree, we all have our own “lens” or perspective that is related to our own ways of finding meaning. I am not sure if I can really answer any of the above questions particularly with regards to the debate of cognitive, affect, emotions, etc., vis a vis, taught or relational. However, I would like to add to the discussion by proposing “understanding” from a hermeneutic perspective.

    Heidegger noted that all understanding from the very beginning is “always already” colored by emotional moods; thus there is no purely cognitive or rational understanding. We are continually interpreting or finding meaning withing each or our own relationships or “Life World” as Husserl would note.

    More theoretically, and I believe regardless of the population or ability to cognitively process, there are areas of understanding. So:

    1. “Learning” is intuitive- truth is a liberation from illusions
    2. The original, lived state, or “experience” is the foundation for knowledge, which kind of goes with question 5 above.
    3. Relationships are intentional- aimed at realizing the possibilities of who we are.

    Understanding comprises both emotional moods or “silent knowledge.” From Alvesson and Skoldberg, “intentionality thus becomes a pre-rational preunderstanding: it is no longer a question of subject which passively, rationally and theoretically gazes at an object, but of an act of knowledge whereby subject and object are created in the first place. Thus, the very act of understanding is primary; subject and object are secondary (and misleading) categories.”

    Therefore, every understanding, of the simplest everday things, is at the same time a contribution to better understanding.

    Thanks for posing these thought provoking questions. It allows me to have some fun and avoid the real work I should be doing!

    • drjohnmtbc says:

      Hey Mike, thanks for your response, ya know, i think your Heidegger quote in regards to understanding and emotion may be similar to Daniel’s Stern’s thoughts on we organize, store, process and collect “envelopes” of experiences. And, how these experiences, that are understood and lived, via emotion, contribute to our learning of the world on a intra and interpersonal level. Thanks!

  2. Ordered and received this book! Such great info! Thank you for posting!

  3. Helen Rubin says:

    I write from the point of view of a Participant Observer Researcher working in early childhood care for 36 years, particularly with the under 2s. Probably a simpler and more basic perspective that the previous poster and even your original post.

    I’ve learned about my own and young children’s emotions and how music (lovingly and passionately delivered!) affects them through my work and also through reflecting on my own childhood experiences, musical and otherwise. In my opinion our emotions are the primary way we learn – whether the world is good or not so good – and we begin that learning from Day 1. The subtle differences in an infant’s behavior when our affect and voice tone (or lack of communication) changes remind me of our tremendous responsibility as parents and caregivers. Edward Tronick’s ‘still face paradigm’ which I watched again recently in an online video ought to have a profound effect on us all. (Sorry I can’t find the link).

    My oldest son planned to be a music therapist but that was not to be, however he has continued to sing barbershop harmony and direct a barbershop chorus as a hobby. Teaching music to all ages has been very much part of his life since he found barbershop harmony at age 12, 24 years ago, and his younger brother (who began singing barbershop at the same time at age 9 and was a slow reader – reading lyrics, singing notes off the paper really sped up his skills!) now 32 carries the torch amazingly leading three choruses, each of differing ages and abilities whilst also singing in a high level competitive barbershop quartet. Did you know that barbershop harmony does special things to some babies ears? Totally calming – I’ve done that experiment on several occasions! http://barbershop.org

    From my perspective music ‘speaks’ to an infant from their earliest days – holding our granddaughter in the NICU on Day 3 of her life all I could do was rock her and hum the first tune that came into my head – not the tune I’d ‘planned’ to sing to her as an infant. ‘Our tune’ was Lucky Old Sun and at 7 months she will still calmly lay on my shoulder as I hum behind her ear. When I hear my youngest son’s (her father) barbershop chorus sing this song I’m always in tears – reflecting the emotions of what our whole family has been through in the past 14 years.

    Music has always influenced us individually and as a family, mostly to bring smiles, good cheer and positive relationships – don’t get me started on the learning that’s taken place. However our youngest son’s musical efforts have affected several age groups and ability levels of barbershop harmony singers who have risen to a higher musical level – so I guess that’s cognitive and emotional.

    I believe all our emotions are intertwined; one emotion does not function as well without another nor without trusting relationships in our lives. Can we attempt to analyze them separately – I’m sure we can, I’m sure it’s been done. Should we – no! Without knowledge of what’s come before in child’s life, even how they are treated (or mistreated!) day to day in daycare or school, we cannot make enough of a difference for a turn around in behavior, no matter how ‘good’ the therapist.

    • drjohnmtbc says:

      Thanks so much, Helen for your thoughtful response to the above post. I too feel that affect is not only the driving force of learning, but as Dr. Greenspan once said (i’m paraphrasing), it is the orchestra leader in integrating and guiding all functional domain areas e.g., cognition, language, physical, musical, etc. And as you so eloquently pointed out, affect is activated or experienced and mobilized in and through relationships!

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