How music lessons and academic achievement are related

Many argue that listening to music and playing instruments enhances cognitive abilities. However, recent research in this area suggests that this is not the case.

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Trying to find an answer

Greek philosophers were among the first to talk about the influence of music on learning. Plato claimedthat musical sciences reveal in a person his inner moral qualities and awaken a desire to learn. Aristotle adhered to a similar point of view – according to him, music appeals to emotions, therefore it prepares the mind to accept new knowledge.

Many years later, the scientific community began to consider this issue not only from a philosophical point of view. A research team from Japan and the United Kingdom examined the results of more than 50 studies from 1986 to 2019 on how playing a musical instrument affects thinking. During the analysis, experts noticed a large number of errors associated with the interpretation of empirical data, and made a conclusionthat the ability to play instruments does not improve cognitive ability

Music lessons develop exclusively musical skills – the effect does not extend beyond this area. Scientists published their work in the prestigious magazine Memory & Cognition… In turn, representatives of the American Academy of Sciences note that playing musical instruments helps develop certain brain functions associated with the recognition of sounds and speech, but they also say that it does not affect the cognitive component.

Such conclusions are confirmed by the study, carried out psychologist Glenn Schellenberg of the University of Toronto back in 2013. He evaluated the performance of 130 schoolchildren aged 10 to 12. Pupils who studied at the music school actually had higher grades. However, Schellenberg also found that their academic performance is not related with the ability to play the guitar or piano. The psychologist noted that social factors played a major role… The parents of these schoolchildren had a high income, were educated and paid special attention to upbringing, so the children studied better.

Mozart effect

Similar studies are conducted not only among those who are engaged in music, but also those who just love to listen to it. Thus, French physician Alfred Tomatis in his book Why Mozart? claimedthat sounds of a certain pitch contribute to the development of the brain, and it can be trained with the help of the works of Mozart. Prove a hypothesis in practice took three specialists from the University of California. They conducted an experiment – participants were asked to answer questions from the IQ test after listening “Sonatas for two pianos in D major K. 448»Mozart and after relaxing in silence. The result turned out to be interesting – the respondents observed significant improvement in spatial thinking: by 8-9 points.

The work of scientists led to the birth of the term “Mozart effect”.

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You are what you listen to

A number of experts argue that there is a relationship between the level of intelligence and the preferred musical genre. A few years ago, a group of scientists from the University of British Columbia interviewed more than 1600 respondents from different social categories.

They found that country, disco, or hip-hop fans were less educated than classical, rock, pop, blues or jazz fans. But there is an opinion that such studies are not representative. They often fail to account for a wide range of outside factors.

As in the situation with the undetected relationship between student performance and music lessons, the greatest influence is exerted not by the fact of listening to compositions belonging to a particular genre, but by social factors and the general level of well-being and prosperity. Causal relationships between education and a particular genre are really not identified

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