Music and Cognitive Abilities

Authors: E. Glenn Schellenberg
Publication:  Current Directions in Psychological Science
Publication volume & date:  Vol. 14, No. 6. (1 December 2005), pp. 317-320
DOI:  10.1111/j.0963-7214.2005.00389


Abridged Abstract:Does music make you smarter? Music listening and music lessons have been claimed to confer intellectual advantages. Any association between music and intellectual functioning would be notable only if the benefits apply reliably to nonmusical abilities and if music is unique in producing the effects. The available evidence indicates that music listening leads to enhanced performance on a variety of cognitive tests, but that such effects are short-term and stem from the impact of music on arousal level and mood, which, in turn, affect cognitive performance; experiences other than music listening have similar effects. Music lessons in childhood tell a different story. They are associated with small but general and long-lasting intellectual benefits that cannot be attributed to obvious confounding variables such as family income and parents’ education. The mechanisms underlying this association have yet to be determined.

This article gives some useful background about the relationship between listening to music or studying music, and a variety of cognitive tests. I found it to be a nice compliment to the article I posted last week, Moral development, executive functioning, peak experiences and brain patterns in professional and amateur classical musicians: Interpreted in light of a Unified Theory of Performance.


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