News: AAAS 2013 Annual Meeting News
Music Lessons Aren't Brain Boosters
Music lessons can be fun for children, but there isn’t much evidence that they can improve a child’s grades or IQ, Glenn Schellenberg said at the AAAS Annual Meeting.
Schellenberg, a University of Toronto psychologist, said his studies showed instead that children who take music lessons tend to be more conscientious and open to new experiences than their peers. These are the same sorts of personality traits, he said, that also are associated with high IQ and doing well in school.
Daniel Levitin, Glenn Schellenberg, and moderator Earl Lane. Credit: AAAS staff.
When researchers account for these personality traits, the link between cognition and music training suggested by some previous studies disappears, he said.
These findings don’t mean that children should stop taking lessons or enjoying music, Schellenberg said. “To justify music in terms of its spillover effects into nonmusical domains is a complete waste of time, and it’s like saying that music would be irrelevant or useless without those nonmusical benefits.”
Extra piano practice may not translate into extra intellect, but is there a way to determine which people have a special talent for music and might benefit from lessons? Neuroscientist Daniel Levitin said there aren’t many good tests for this kind of aptitude.
“We don’t have tests that predict from a young age who is going to excel at music,” he admitted, “and we don’t have tests that we can give to adults to correlate well with achievement.”
Levitin spoke about a colleague who gave one of the more popular musical aptitude tests to members of the Los Angeles Philharmonic, and “half of them scored in the lower half of the test,” he said.
He thinks that researchers “would benefit from a broader definition of musicality,” which would include not just people who can read music and play virtuoso cello, but also people like DJs with a knack for putting together a playlist and those who are profoundly moved by music.
Levitin’s work is informed by his own broad musical roots; he produced records for Santana and Blue Oyster Cult and performed with Sting and Roasanne Cash before becoming a scientist.
“I think there are benefits to society to having more people engaged in the arts,” he said. Even if music instruction doesn’t make you a better mathematician or a better athlete, even if it only gives you the enjoyment of music, that’s a good end in and of itself.”
All rights reserved.
|Annual Meeting News|