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Not long ago I saw a link on Artsjournal.com to a short news piece saying a study found music won’t make people smarter. I sought out the study in on the Memory & Cognition journal website to learn a bit more about this metareview of previous studies on the subject.
The study authors state the following:
We can thus conclude that these findings convincingly refute all the theories claiming that music training causes improvements in any domain-general cognitive skill or academic achievement (e.g., Moreno et al., 2011; Patel, 2011; Saarikivi et al., 2019; Tierney & Kraus, 2013). In fact, there is no need to postulate any explanatory mechanism in the absence of any genuine effect or between-study variability. In other words, since there is no phenomenon, there is nothing to explain
Later they discuss that musical ability and intelligence are connected, but it is innate, rather trained, musical skill that is associated with intelligence. For awhile it appeared their findings might support that there is value in music education because it helps to strengthen those entwined roots at the base of natural musical aptitude and intelligence, basically activating a natural capacity which may have otherwise been dormant. However, the following statement seemed to eliminate that possibility.
These findings corroborate the hypothesis according to which the observed correlation between music training and particular domain-general cognitive/academic skills is a byproduct of previous abilities…Therefore, there is no reason to support the hypothesis that music training boosts cognition or academic skills. Rather, all the evidence points toward the opposite conclusion, that is, that the impact of music training on cognitive and academic skills is null
They do say it might be worth studying whether music training is beneficial for things like prosocial behavior and self-esteem. They say this is an understudied area along with exploring whether some “elements of music instruction (e.g., arithmetical music notation) could be used to facilitate learning in other disciplines such as arithmetic.”