News / Health

Researchers: Music Lessons Do Not Make Children Smarter

Children Learn to Play Music by Listening
Children Learn to Play Music by Listening
Jessica Berman
It’s commonly believed that teaching children music makes them smarter; but the authors of a new study say there’s no scientific evidence that early musical training has any effect on the intelligence of youngsters.  

An estimated 80 percent of American adults think music lessons improve children's grades or boost their learning ability.  In fact, children can get a lot of benefit from music lessons, say experts, from the pride that comes with learning how to play a new song to serving as an outlet for creativity.

Harvard University researchers in Massachusetts, however, have discovered that there’s one thing early musical training does not do - it does not increase intelligence.

Researchers led by School of Education graduate student Samuel Mehr say it's a misconception that learning to play an instrument enhances a child's cognitive development.

Mehr bases his conclusion on the results of studies that measured the mental aptitude of two groups of 4-year-olds and their parents.  One group was assigned to a music class; the other to a class that emphasized visual arts.

“The evidence there is 'no.'  We found no evidence for any advantage on any of these tests for the kids participating in these music classes," said Mehr.

While dozens of studies have been conducted to see whether musical training can make children smarter, Mehr says the results have been mixed.  He says only one study, published several years ago in the journal Nature, seemed to show a slight 2.7 percent increase in IQ, or intellectual quotient, scores among students after one year of lessons.

But Mehr, who says IQ is not a good measure of a child’s intelligence, says researchers decided to compare how well children in the musical training group fared on mental processing tasks compared to those who received no music lessons.

There was no evidence that the musical training group significantly outperformed the other group on mental tasks.  To confirm the results, researchers conducted a second study with a larger group of youngsters and their parents, and found no cognitive advantage to music lessons.

While lessons may not offer children a shortcut to prestigious academic institutions, Mehr says they are of significant cultural importance.

“We teach music because music is important to us.  And I think to make an analogy to another area, we don’t teach Shakespeare so that our kids will be better at physics.  We teach Shakespeare because it matters, because it’s important.  And I don’t think music needs to be any different than that.”

An article looking at the benefits of musical training in children is published in the journal PLOS ONE.

You May Like

Obama: I Will Do 'Everything I Can' to Close Guantanamo

US president says prison continues 'to inspire jihadists and extremists around the world' More

Sierra Leone Educates on Safe Ebola Burials

Also, country is improving at rapid response to isolated outbreaks, but health workers need to be even faster, officials say More

Religion Aside, Christmas Gains Popularity in Communist Vietnam

Increasingly wealthy Vietnamese embrace holiday due to its non-religious glamor, commercial appeal More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
US Decision on Cuba Underscores Divisions Among Miami Cubansi
X
Sharon Behn
December 19, 2014 9:34 PM
For decades, older, more conservative Cubans have been gathering at Café Versailles on the corner of Calle Ocho to eat Cuban food and talk politics. After hearing of President Barack Obama’s decision, a number of them gathered in front of the café with posters to protest. VOA's Sharon Behn reports on the situation.
Video

Video US Decision on Cuba Underscores Divisions Among Miami Cubans

For decades, older, more conservative Cubans have been gathering at Café Versailles on the corner of Calle Ocho to eat Cuban food and talk politics. After hearing of President Barack Obama’s decision, a number of them gathered in front of the café with posters to protest. VOA's Sharon Behn reports on the situation.
Video

Video Three Cities Bid for Future Obama Presidential Library

President Barack Obama still has two years left in his term in office, but the effort to establish his post-presidential library is already underway. The bid for the Obama Presidential Library is down to four locations in three states -- New York, Hawaii, and Illinois. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, each of them played an important part in the president’s life before he reached the White House.
Video

Video Cuba Deal is Major Victory for Pope’s Diplomatic Initiatives

Pope Francis played a key role in brokering the US-Cuba deal that was made public earlier this week. It is the most stunning success so far in a series of peacemaking efforts by the pontiff. VOA religion reporter Jerome Socolovsky has more.
Video

Video Fears of More Political Gridlock in 2015

2014 proved to be a difficult year politically for President Barack Obama and a very good year for the U.S. Republican Party. Republican gains in the November midterm elections gave them control of the Senate and House of Representatives for the next two years -- setting the stage for more confrontation and gridlock in the final two years of the Obama presidency. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone has a preview from Washington.
Video

Video Sudan School Becomes Target of Aerial Attacks

The school dropout rate is at an all-time high in Sudan's South Kordofan state because many schools have been destroyed during the three-year civil war between the government and SPLA-N rebel forces. Adam Bailes visited Sudan's Nuba Mountains' region and reports many children are simply too scared to go to school
Video

Video VOA Reporter Tours Devastated Peshawar School

Islamist militants wearing military uniforms and strapped with explosives attacked a military run school Tuesday in the northwestern Pakistani city of Peshawar. At least 141 people were killed in the horrific attack, most of them young students. VOA reporter Ayaz Gul visited the devastated school and attended the funeral of the principal who courageously tried to save her students from the deadly attack.
Video

Video Nigerians Fleeing Boko Haram Languish in Camp Near Capital

In its five-year effort to impose Islamic law in northeastern Nigeria, the Boko Haram extremist group has killed thousands of people and forced hundreds of thousands to flee. Some of those who ran for their lives now live in squalor on the edges of the capital, Abuja. Chris Stein reports for VOA.
Video

Video Aceh Rebuilt Decade After Tsunami, But Scars Remain

On December 26, 2004 there was an earthquake in the Indian Ocean so powerful it caused the Earth’s axis to wobble a few centimeters. Onshore on the island of Sumatra, the resulting tsunami was devastating. A decade later, VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Banda Aceh, Indonesia, where although there is little remaining evidence of the physical devastation, the psychological scars among survivors remain.

All About America

AppleAndroid