Studying music 'does not' boost intelligence

Studying music ‘does not’ boost intelligence

Tuesday, December 24th, 2013

Harvard scientists have today suggested the widely held theory that learning an instrument can boost intelligence is merely a myth.

For years, drummers have often been cited as sufficient evidence by which to debunk this theory, yet new research from Harvard suggests that there has never been any significant data to support this popular belief.

Researchers revealed that music education has no effect on a child’s cognitive abilities.

“More than 80 per cent of American adults think that music improves children’s grades or intelligence,” said Samuel Mehr, a Harvard Graduate School of Education doctoral student working in the lab of Marshall L Berkman Professor of Psychology Elizabeth Spelke.

“Even in the scientific community, there’s a general belief that music is important for these extrinsic reasons but there is very little evidence supporting the idea that music classes enhance children’s cognitive development,” Mehr added.

According to news site IndianExpress.com, this myth stems from a single study published published in journal Nature, in which researchers identified what they called the “Mozart effect” – after listening to music, test subjects performed better on spatial tasks.

However, while the study was later debunked, the idea that listening to music could increase intelligence became embedded in the public’s imagination.

While numerous studies have explored if and how music and cognitive skills are connected, when Mehr and colleagues reviewed the literature they found just that five studies that used randomised trials.

Of the five, only one showed an unambiguously positive effect, which it was deemed to be so small that it was barely enough to be of anysignificance.

The research from Harvard contradicts findings from a recent scientific journal entitled The Journal of Neuroscience, which found that adults who used to play an instrument display a quicker brain response to speech sounds, even in lapsed musicians who haven’t played in decades.

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