Study: Questioning the cognitive benefits of music classes

BabyMusicThe ‘Mozart effect’ of hav­ing kids study music? It’s only a myth, researchers find (Wash­ing­ton Post):

  • Chil­dren get plen­ty of ben­e­fits from music lessons: Learn­ing to play an instru­ment can be a great out­let for a child’s cre­ativ­i­ty, and the repeat­ed prac­tice can teach much-need­ed focus and dis­ci­pline. What’s more, the pay­off, whether it’s learn­ing a new song or just mas­ter­ing a new chord, is often a boost of self-esteem. But Har­vard researchers now say that one oft-cit­ed ben­e­fit — that study­ing music improves intel­li­gence — is a myth…Though dozens of stud­ies have explored whether and how music and cog­ni­tive skills might be con­nect­ed, Mehr and col­leagues found just five stud­ies that used ran­dom­ized tri­als. Only one showed an unam­bigu­ous­ly pos­i­tive effect, and it was so small that it was bare­ly enough to be sta­tis­ti­cal­ly significant.”

Study: Two Ran­dom­ized Tri­als Pro­vide No Con­sis­tent Evi­dence for Non­mu­si­cal Cog­ni­tive Ben­e­fits of Brief Preschool Music Enrich­ment (PLOS)

  • Abstract: Young chil­dren reg­u­lar­ly engage in musi­cal activ­i­ties, but the effects of ear­ly music edu­ca­tion on chil­dren’s cog­ni­tive devel­op­ment are unknown. While some stud­ies have found asso­ci­a­tions between musi­cal train­ing in child­hood and lat­er non­mu­si­cal cog­ni­tive out­comes, few ran­dom­ized con­trolled tri­als (RCTs) have been employed to assess causal effects of music lessons on child cog­ni­tion and no clear pat­tern of results has emerged. We con­duct­ed two RCTs with preschool chil­dren inves­ti­gat­ing the cog­ni­tive effects of a brief series of music classes…After six weeks of class, we assessed chil­dren’s skills in four dis­tinct cog­ni­tive areas in which old­er arts-trained stu­dents have been report­ed to excel: spa­tial-nav­i­ga­tion­al rea­son­ing, visu­al form analy­sis, numer­i­cal dis­crim­i­na­tion, and recep­tive vocabulary…and the com­bined results of the two exper­i­ments were neg­a­tive: over­all, chil­dren pro­vid­ed with music class­es per­formed no bet­ter than those with visu­al arts or no class­es on any assess­ment. Our find­ings under­score the need for repli­ca­tion in RCTs, and sug­gest cau­tion in inter­pret­ing the pos­i­tive find­ings from past stud­ies of cog­ni­tive effects of music instruction.

Relat­ed (and more nuanced) articles:

English About SharpBrains

SHARPBRAINS is an independent think-tank and consulting firm providing services at the frontier of applied neuroscience, health, leadership and innovation.

English About SharpBrains

SHARPBRAINS es un think-tank y consultoría independiente proporcionando servicios para la neurociencia aplicada, salud, liderazgo e innovación.

Top Articles on Brain Health and Neuroplasticity

Top 10 Brain Teasers and Illusions


Subscribe to our e-newsletter

* indicates required

Got the book?