4E cognition and decolonial goals converge in interpreting sociofunctional uses of music

Juan Loaiza, Nikki Moran, Renee Timmers

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaperpeer-review

Abstract / Description of output

Recent years have seen a surge of interest in how music is used in everyday life to support wellbeing and health. Like much research in psychology and cognitive sciences there is a sample problem across the board: an over-representation of Western, Educated, Industrialised, Rich, and Democratic societies (WEIRD). WEIRD-based research conclusions have tended to feedback on assumptions about music, wellbeing, and cognition that are couched in terms of individual-centred processes and internal psychological mechanisms. Ethnographic methods partly solve these problems by describing different contexts and ideologies of music and health, thus facilitating cross-cultural sampling. Yet, a critical decolonial approach is needed to redress the power imbalance between research (and researchers), and the people - often socio-economically marginalised already -whose experiences are represented in research.
We aim to define a novel interdisciplinary approach to the understanding of the relationships between music, health, and wellbeing that tackles the problem of WEIRD over-representation in cognitive sciences, not only in terms of increasing cross-cultural samples but also challenging the underlying theoretical assumptions at play. By doing so, we aim further to align with a larger decolonial project. We identify a unique starting point around the ethnographic notion of music-as-health-establishing, and an opportunity for interdisciplinary convergence: the marriage between holistic, ethnographic conceptualisations of
music’s socio-functional connection with health, and unorthodox 4E approaches to cognition that emphasise the situatedness and irreducibility of cognition (not restricted to the ‘head’ and not separated from body and environment).
The proposal builds on 4E’s fundamental hypothesis about mind and behaviour as shaped by the continuous coordination between body, brain, physical and social environment at and across multiple timescales. We interpret music-as-health-establishing through the lens of 4E coordination and discuss how this view is best complemented and amplified through an anthropological understanding of music, healing and wellbeing as processes intrinsic to the maintenance of human, material and intangible relationships. Our critical starting point takes into consideration the interactions between dissimilar forms of knowledge and promotes marginalised knowledge about musical healing. Our reframing of music’s social and health function eschews methodological and ontological individualism and steps towards decolonising research in cognitive science. Highlighting the relationships between coordination, music and health helps to understand how people can use their knowledge and heritage - embodied in coordinated activities - to recover and reorganise their experience of wellbeing. This has particular relevance in the disrupted context of the pandemic.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusUnpublished - 28 Jul 2021


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