The healing power of music is vast. Music therapy is in its infancy in Western psychology. If we knew more, we’d be able to do amazing things and maybe even make permanent changes in the brain’s mysterious workings. With a simple song and four chords, you might be able to do something useful, even life-changing. With all the songs you know, you might be a virtual, veritable medicine chest for the right person.

-Gary Talley

With emerging technologies comes a vast range of treatments. One of the most common issues that have been sensed recently is the emergence of mental health disorders. Where a wide range of medicines are introduced to treat mental health issues, they don’t seem to be very favorable at times; many don’t even like the idea of taking medicines for their disorders. Diana Deutsch, a British psychologist, considering the rise in mental health issues, decided to invent a new technique to treat psychological disorders by carrying out thorough research. Hence, she is eminently known for conducting extensive research on the psychology of music.

Born on 15 February 1938 in London, England, to Max and Iska Sokol, Diana is a British-American psychologist from London, England. She’s a professor of psychology at the University of California, San Diego.

Deutsch is primarily known for her discoveries of music and speech illusions.  Her work also focuses on the cognitive groundwork of musical grammar, which portrays the way people hold musical pitches in memory, and how people interlink the resonances of harmony and speech to each other. Plus, she has gained more familiarity due to her groundbreaking efforts on absolute pitch (perfect pitch), which seems to be far more dominant among speakers of tone languages. Deutsch has also published ‘substantial influential works scriptures such as Musical Illusions and Phantom Words: How Music and Speech Unlock Mysteries of the Brain (2019), the Psychology of Music (3rd Ed, 2013), The Compact Discs Musical Illusions and Paradoxes (1995), and Phantom Words and Other Curiosities (2003).

Deutsch acquired her early education at Christ’s Hospital in Hertford. Her father was a sculptor of the expressionist school, and she attributes her strong interest in relationships between art, science, and philosophy to her many conversations with him in childhood. Her inherited interest encouraged her to enter St Anne’s College, Oxford, in 1956. During her time there, she came across J. Anthony Deutsch, a lecturer, and mutually decided to marry him and relocated to the U.S. after successfully obtaining a First-Class Honors degree in Psychology, Philosophy, and Physiology in 1959. Subsequently, Deutsch received her Ph.D. in Psychology in 1970 from the University of California, San Diego, which empowered her to be appointed as a Research Scientist in 1971, and Professor of Psychology in 1989, holding both positions at the University of California, San Diego. Later on, in 2022, she was appointed as an Adjunct Professor at Stanford University in the Center for Computer Research in Music and Acoustics (CCRMA) in the Department of Music.

Her keen interest in philosophy by J.L. Austin and visual illusions by Richard Gregory during her time at Oxford led to her author many writings. Deutsch, along with her husband, authored the book Physiological Psychology 1st edition in 1966 and the 2nd edition in 1973, edited the book Short Term Memory (1975) and wrote several articles, including “Attention: Some Theoretical Considerations (1963),” which was cited as a Current Contents Citation Classic in 1981.

Deutsch has discovered a diverse collection of illusions of music and speech related to sound perception and memory. They show that there are remarkable variations in how people perceive music. Some of these variations relate to differences in brain organization, and others relate to the listeners’ languages and dialects. One set of illusions occurs when two sequences of tones are presented over stereo headphones, such that when the right ear receives one order, and the left ear receives a different order. Using this method, Deutsch discovered striking illusions, including the octave illusion, the scale illusion, the chromatic illusion, the cambiata illusion, and the glissando illusion. She discovered that there are solid disagreements between listeners and in how these illusions were experienced. These disagreements are inclined to occur between right-handers and left-handers, signifying that they echo differences in brain organization.

Deutsch’s research also emphasizes absolute pitch (or perfect pitch), which is the capability to name or generate a musical note without the support of a reference note. This ability is not very common in the United States, but Deutsch discovered that it is much more prevalent among speakers of pitch-accent languages, such as Mandarin or Vietnamese. Deutsch proposed that, if given a chance, infants can acquire absolute pitch as a feature of their language, and this ability transmits into music. This application has stirred a significant body of work on absolute pitch and on pitch perception in language. Deutsch and Dooley also found that speakers of English with absolute pitch had unusually large digit spans for spoken words. They proposed that this strong verbal memory makes it easier to develop a connection between musical notes and their names in early childhood and, furthermore, to obtain absolute pitch.

Deutsch has been an elected Fellow of several societies. These include the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the Audio Engineering Society, the Acoustical Society of America,  the Society of Experimental Psychologists, the American Psychological Society (renamed the Association for Psychological Science), the Psychonomic Society, and four divisions of the American Psychological Association: Division 1 (Society for General Psychology), Division 3 (Society for Experimental Psychology and Cognitive Science), Division 10 (Society for the Psychology of Aesthetics, Creativity and the Arts) and Division 21 (Applied Experimental and Engineering Psychology.

Deutsch’s countless efforts have ‘resulted in her reception of the AES Gold Medal Award from the Audio Engineering Society for Lifelong Contributions to the Understanding of the Human Hearing Mechanism and the Science of Psychoacoustics; the Gustav Theodor Fechner Award for Outstanding Contributions to Empirical Aesthetics from the International Association of Empirical Aesthetics, to the Science Writing Award for Professionals in Acoustics by the Acoustical Society of America; and the Rudolf Arnheim Award for Outstanding Achievement in Psychology and the Arts, from the American Psychological Association.

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