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"Music is for everyone and is necessary for healthy human development."

-Zoltan Kodaly

Research Report
Music Lessons Enhance IQ
E. Glenn Schellenberg, University of Toronto at Mississauga, Mississauga, Ontario, Canada

ABSTRACT—The idea that music makes you smarter has received considerable attention from scholars and the media. The present report is the first to test this hypothesis directly with random assignment of a large sample of children (N5144) to three different types of music lessons (keyboard, guitar, or voice) or to control groups that received drama lessons or no lessons. IQ was measured before and after the lessons. Compared with children in the control groups, children in the music groups exhibited greater increases in full-scale IQ.

Current interest in associations between music and intelligence stems
from two independent areas of research (Schellenberg, 2003). One focuses on short-term effects of simple listening to music. The so called Mozart effect refers to the finding that passive listening to music composed by Mozart produces temporary increases in spatial abilities (Hetland, 2000b; Rauscher, Shaw, & Ky, 1993).

Compared with sitting in silence for 10 min, listening to Mozart induces more positive moods and relatively optimal levels of arousal, which lead to higher levels of performance on tests of spatial abilities.

The focus of the present report is on a separate line of research, which examines whether music lessons have collateral benefits that extend to nonmusical areas of cognition. Such transfer effects (see Barnett & Ceci, 2002) could be unique to children who take music lessons for extended periods of time because their experiences differ substantially from those of other children.

Music lessons involve long periods of focused attention, daily practice, reading musical notation, memorization of extended musical passages, learning about a variety of musical structures (e.g., intervals, scales, chords, chord progressions), and progressive mastery of technical (i.e., fine-motor) skills and the conventions governing the expression of emotions in performance.

This combination of experiences could have a positive impact on cognition, particularly during the childhood years, when brain development is highly plastic and sensitive to environmental influence (Huttenlocher, 2002).

Previous findings are consistent with the hypothesis that music lessons promote intellectual development. For example, musical aptitude is associated with literacy (Anvari, Trainor, Woodside, & Levy, 2002; Lamb & Gregory, 1993) and general intelligence (Lynn, Wilson, & Gault, 1989). Presumably, music lessons would increase musical aptitude, as well as the nonmusical abilities associated with aptitude.

Indeed, correlational and quasi-experimental studies reveal that music lessons have positive associations with verbal memory (Ho, Cheung, & Chan, 2003), spatial ability (for review, see Hetland, 2000a), reading ability (Hurwitz, Wolff, Bortnick, & Kokas, 1975), selective attention (Hurwitz et al., 1975), and mathematics achievement (Cheek & Smith, 1999).

Music Lessons Enhance IQ
Between effects considered small (0.2) and medium (0.5) by Cohen (1988). Children in the control groups had an average increase in IQ of 4.3 points (SD57.3), whereas the music groups had an average increase of 7.0 points (SD58.6). On all but 2 of the 12 subtests (Arithmetic and Information), the music groups had larger increases than the control groups, p.5 (sign test).

How can one explain the association between music lessons and IQ? It is well established that simple attendance at school raises IQ (Ceci & Williams, 1997), and that school instruction is particularly effective when classes are small (Ehrenberg, Brewer, Gamoran, & Wilms, 2001). Music lessons, taught individually or in small groups, may provide additional boosts in IQ because they are like school but still enjoyable. Moreover, music lessons involve a multiplicity of experiences that could generate improvement in a wide range of abilities.


 


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