Practice makes progress, if not perfection, for most things in life. Generally, practicing a skill—be it basketball, chess or the tuba—mostly makes you better at whatever it was you practiced. Even related areas do not benefit much. Doing intensive basketball drills does not usually make a person particularly good at football. Chess experts are not necessarily fabulous at math, and tuba players can’t just put down their tubas and pick up cellos.
Much of the literature makes the mistake of inferring causation from correlation, and fails to control for confounding variables. Glenn Schellenberg, a psychologist at the University of Toronto who studies transfer from music specifically, has new, not yet published work showing that the association between music lessons and cognition disappears when demographics and personality are held constant. In other words, the apparent benefits from music lessons have more to do with which kids take music lessons than they do with the lessons themselves.
Read the whole story: Scientific American