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

At International AIDS Conference One Goal, Many Paths

The 12,000 delegates attending 20th International AIDS Conference in Melbourne have vastly different visions about how to eradicate disease More

Disasters May Doom Malaysia’s Flag Carrier

Even before loss of two jets loaded with passengers on international flights, company had been operating in red for three years, accumulating deficit of $1.3 billion More

Afghan Presidential Vote Audit Continues Despite Glitches

Process has been marred by walkouts by representatives of two competing candidates, Abdullah Abdullah and Ashraf Ghani More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Nature of Space Exploration Enters New Agei
X
Elizabeth Lee
July 20, 2014 2:36 AM
Forty-five years ago this month, the first humans walked on the moon. It was during an era of the space race between the United States and the Soviet Union. World politics have changed since then and -- as Elizabeth Lee reports -- so has the nature of space exploration.
Video

Video Nature of Space Exploration Enters New Age

Forty-five years ago this month, the first humans walked on the moon. It was during an era of the space race between the United States and the Soviet Union. World politics have changed since then and -- as Elizabeth Lee reports -- so has the nature of space exploration.
Video

Video Chicago’s Argonne Lab Developing Battery of the Future

In 2012, the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Science awarded a $120 million grant to a new technology center focused on battery development - headquartered at Argonne National Laboratory in suburban Chicago, Illinois. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, there scientists are making the next technological breakthroughs in energy storage.
Video

Video In NW Pakistan, Army Offensive Causes Massive Number of Displaced

Pakistan’s army offensive in North Waziristan has resulted in the large-scale displacement of the local population. VOA's Ayaz Gul reports from northwest Pakistan where authorities say around 80 percent of the estimated 1 million internally displaced persons [IDPs] have settled in Bannu district, while much of the remaining 20 percent are scattered in nearby cities.
Video

Video Kurdish Peshmerga Force Secures Kirkuk, Its Oil

The Kurdistan regional government has sent its Peshmerga troops into the adjacent province of Kirkuk to drive out insurgents, and to secure the area's rich oil fields. By doing this, the regional government has added a fourth province to the three it officially controls. The oil also provides revenue that could make an independent Kurdistan economically strong. VOA’s Jeffrey Young went out with the Peshmerga and filed this report.
Video

Video Malaysia Reeling: Second Air Disaster in Four Months

Malaysia is reeling from the second air disaster in four months involving the country’s flag carrier. Flight 340 vanished in March and despite an extensive search, no debris has been found. And on Thursday, Flight 17, likely hit by a surface-to-air missile, came apart over eastern Ukraine. The two incidents together have left more than 500 people dead. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Kuala Lumpur.
Video

Video Diplomatic Crisis Grows Over MH17 Plane Crash

The Malaysia Airlines crash in eastern Ukraine is drawing reaction from leaders around the world. With suspicions growing that a surface-to-air missile shot down the aircraft, there are increasing tensions in the international community over who is to blame. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video Undocumented Immigrants Face Perilous Journey to US, No Guarantees

Every day, hundreds of undocumented immigrants from Central America attempt the arduous journey through Mexico and turn themselves over to U.S. border patrol -- with the hope that they will not be turned away. But the dangers they face along the way are many, and as Ramon Taylor reports from the Rio Grande Valley in Texas, their fate rests on more than just the reception they get at the US border.
Video

Video Scientists Create Blackest Material Ever

Of all the black things in the universe only the infamous "black holes" are so black that not even a tiny amount of light can bounce back. But scientists have managed to create material almost as black, and it has enormous potential use. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Fog Collector Transforming Maasai Water Harvesting in Kenya

The Maasai people of Kenya are known for their cattle-herding, nomadic lifestyle. But it's an existence that depends on access to adequate water for their herds and flocks. Lenny Ruvaga reports for VOA, on a "fog collector."

AppleAndroid