Surely you are kidding??

An article in claims that evidence has been found that music does not make children smarter.
This is the answer, from someone who holds degrees in research and psychology.


In an article from December last year, (our foremost Scientific Journal) categorically states that

Music does not make your child smarter.


The article cites 2 studies, done in total on 2 separate groups of preschoolers (and their parents).  The one study compared IQ of 15 toddlers doing “musical activities” with their parents and in class, with another group of 14 toddlers doing visual arts “activities” and found no significant differences.

The second study spanned a total of a whopping 45 more children (no ages specified, nor is the length of the study specified) where some of them got some sort of musical instruction and the others did not.  Once again, no changes noted.

The conclusion drawn from this is that the well-established observation that musical instruction improves a child’s (and adult’s) mental abilities, is wrong.  Not only this, but the article suggests that there is “very little evidence” to support this widely held “belief”.

Dear Masters of Research.

If ever I saw pseudoscience, this is it!

1) You did not do your research concerning the actual effect you are trying to challenge.  (I copy references from a well-researched summary into this blog post as I link to it:  “The Benefits of Music” by Iain Rossouw.  This is only because I’m too lazy to find all 36 references myself again).  There is plenty of very solid evidence!  You need not reinvent the wheel.

2) To draw any conclusions from a sample less than 30 is biostatistically incorrect.  Biostatistics has defined a sample of 30 as the minimum sample size for any kind of statistic conclusion.  Therefore, your study with 15 vs 14 falls out of the picture.

3) There is so little information about the second study in the article that I can’t draw any conclusions from it.  What kind of musical tuition?  For how long?  How old were these children?  So I’ll disregard that study entirely until someone can bring me more details so that I can discuss it intelligently.

4) But let’s look closer at the first study.

Firstly:  I quote directly:

“We wanted to test the effects of the type of music education that actually happens in the real world, and we wanted to study the effect in young children, so we implemented a parent-child music enrichment programme with preschoolers,” Mehr explained. “The goal is to encourage musical play between parents and children in a classroom environment, which gives parents a strong repertoire of musical activities they can continue to use at home with their kids.”

A “parent-child music enrichment programme” ??  “Musical play between parents and children in a classroom environment” -?


Let’s draw an obvious parallel:

It’s a widely held belief that swimming is an activity that can benefit asthma sufferers.

I personally have not researched this topic beyond hearsay; so I’ll simply say there is very little evidence supporting this view.

Then I go and put a whole bunch of toddlers with asthma into a splashpool, and take an equal number and put them onto a playground, and conclude that no, swimming had absolutely no effect on these toddlers.

This is the comparison that is drawn here.  You see it?


The “control” group did art.

Art also benefits children’s mental processes!  Who said that just because music does, art doesn’t?


A toddler’s splashpool vs Olympic training:

Learning an instrument such as the violin takes focus, persistence, and it trains several abilities out of necessity.  This does not happen overnight.  You cannot conduct such a study for 2 weeks or even 3 months.  You’d have to go for at least a year – and then, what you see is indeed impressive.

You cannot compare a school-aged child seriously studying the violin, with a toddler doing “parent-child musical enrichment activities”.  Honestly??


Of course music makes your child smarter!  In particular, learning a complex musical instrument over a timespan is what makes your child smarter, not the incidental exposure to “activities”.  

Playing chess will also make your child smarter, as will solving math sums.  There are many learning modules that actually make your child smarter, by the very act of learning!  Learning a complex musical instrument is one of the best.


Then what is the agenda behind this obviously misleading article?

Other than to further dismantle what remnants of European culture there may be in South Africa?

I am horrified that such blatant untruths get spread so thickly in our very best media service!  Where is the editor, did he/she not see this?


Here are the promised references to support the “widespread belief”:

(thought I’d add this:

Google search for “The Benefits of Music” – knock yourself out!)



1— Nature Neuroscience, April 2007

2Journal for Research in Music Education, June 2007; Dr. Christopher Johnson, Jenny Memmott

3— From Empathy, Arts and Social Studies, 2000; Konrad, R.R.

4— Dr. Laurel Trainor, Prof. of Psychology, Neuroscience, and Behavior at McMaster University, 2006

5—NELS:88 First Follow-up, 1990, National Center for Education Statistics, Washington DC

6—The Midland Chemist (American Chemical Society) Vol. 42, No.1, Feb. 2005

7—From Nature, May 23, 1996; Gardiner, Fox, Jeffrey and Knowles

8— From Critical Links: Learning in the Arts and Student Academic and Social Development, Arts Education Partnership, 2002

9—Academic Preparation for College: What Students Need to Know and Be Able to Do, 1983 [still in use], The College Board, New York

10Catterall, James S., Richard Chapleau, and John Iwanaga. “Involvement in the Arts and Human Development: General Involvement and Intensive Involvement in Music and Theater Arts.” Los Angeles, CA: The Imagination Project at UCLA Graduate School of Education and Information Studies, 1999.

11—Shaw, Rauscher, Levine, Wright, Dennis and Newcomb, “Music training causes long-term enhancement of preschool children’s spatial-temporal reasoning,” Neurological Research, Vol. 19, February 1997

12— From “The Music in Our Minds,” Educational Leadership, Vol. 56, #3; Norman M. Weinberger

13Sergent, J., Zuck, E., Tenial, S., and MacDonall, B. (1992). Distributed neural network underlying musical sight reading and keyboard performance. Science, 257, 106-109.

14—Schlaug, G., Jancke, L., Huang, Y., and Steinmetz, H. (1994). In vivo morphometry of interhem ispheric assymetry and connectivity in musicians. In I. Deliege (Ed.), Proceedings of the 3d international conference for music perception and cognition (pp. 417-418). Liege, Belgium.

15—From Nature, April 23, 1998; Christian Pantev, et al

16—From The Role of the Fine and Performing Arts in High School Dropout Prevention, 2002; Barry, N., J. Taylor, and K. Walls

17—Gardiner, Fox, Jeffrey and Knowles, as reported in Nature, May 23, 1996

18( Debby Mitchell, University of Central Florida.)

19TCAMS Professional Resource Center, 2000.

20Dynamic Presentations Unlimited Research; Band Director Focus Groups, December 2001. As referenced in “Discover the Power of Music Education,” Yamaha Advocacy Report, 2002, pg. 2.


23 Rauscher, Shaw & Ky, 1993


25 CaseForMusicEducation.pdf (Lang Lang International Foundation)

26 University of Wisconsin, Oshkosh; NAMM 1997 publication: “Making Music Makes You Smarter.”

27 The Arts Education Partnership, 1999

28— From Houston Chronicle, January 11, 1998

29— Commission on Drug and Alcohol Abuse Report. Reported in Houston Chronicle, January, 1998

30— The Associated Press, October, 1999

31— As reported in “The Case for Music in the Schools,” Phi Delta Kappan, February 1994

32— Those with More Education and Higher Household Incomes are More Likely to Have Had Music Education: Music education Influences Level of Personal Fulfillment for Many U.S. Adults.” The Harris Poll® #112, November 12, 2007

33—Grant Venerable, “The Paradox of the Silicon Savior,” as reported in “The Case for Sequential Music Education in the Core Curriculum of the Public Schools,” The Center for the Arts in the Basic Curriculum, New York, 1989

34—.– CaseForMusicEducation (Lang Lang International Foundation)

(I took two references out that no longer link – apparently johnmastro’s blog was either edited or removed by its author.  Could be he got tired of blogging.  Sorry – not 36 refs, only 32 now.  Supplement with the new ones you find on Google.)


You can read the review here:
















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