Music makes you smarter. Right? Actually, it doesn’t, Harvard study finds

The Boston Globe:

True or false? Music makes you smarter.

Contrary to popular belief, a study—led by a Harvard graduate student who plays the saxophone, flute, bassoon, oboe, and clarinet—found no cognitive benefits to music lessons.

The finding, published Wednesday in the journal PLOS ONE, is bound to make arts advocates cringe, as it challenges an argument that is often used to bolster the case for music education: it’ll make kids better at math.

“We don’t teach our children Shakespeare and Dante and Tolstoy because it makes them do better in American history class or at learning the periodic table of the elements,” said Samuel Mehr, a graduate student at the Harvard School of Education who led the work. “We teach them those great authors because those great authors are important. There’s really no reason to justify music education on any other basis than its intrinsic merits. We have our Dante, Tolstoy, and Shakespeare, and they are Bach, Duke Ellington, and Benjamin Britten.”

Ellen Winner, a professor of psychology at Boston College who studies arts education, said the results did not surprise her at all and she applauded the journal for publishing a negative result—one that challenges a popular and well-accepted idea.

Read the whole story: The Boston Globe

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Many who have studied music with focus and intent, especially when their music study has been motivated by pure joy, know that their ability to appreciate and understand music, their “Music Intelligence”, has grown as a consequence of the endeavor. So, the absence of finding benefit in another area of cognition consequent to the study of music begs the question, “How is it not so?!!” Could the psychological elements of Music Intelligence truly be isolated from our other cognitive intelligences? Were the music students in this study subjected to music lessons in the manner of administration of unmarked pills in a clinical drug study?

Separate from my view above, I assert that any promise of “cognitive benefit” is never a prerequisite to individual investment in music culture.

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