Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Does music make you smarter?


Does music make you smarter? by Steven M. Demorest and Steven J. Morrison.


“Does music make you smarter?” Most of this attention has centered on two sets of studies done by a group of researchers at the University of California at Irvine. The first series of studies documents a short-term increase in performance on a spatial reasoning task after listening to Mozart, often referred to as the "Mozart effect." The second series concluded that piano instruction caused preschoolers to improve on a single test of spatial reasoning ability. Steven M. Demorest and Steven J. Morrison address the specific results of the studies, discuss where they are most often misinterpreted or overstated, and identify alternative points that music teachers may wish to emphasize.

Smarter at what?

They mentioned, of course, music instruction makes students in music but most people misunderstand “music makes you smarter.” In all the recent press about the potential benefits of music and music instruction, there is an implicit assumption that "smarter" means "smarter at something else."

The “Mozart Effect”
"Mozart effect" refers specifically to improvement on a single spatial reasoning task exhibited by college students after ten minutes of listening to Mozart's Sonata for Two Pianos, K. 448, as demonstrated in a 1993 study, the conclusions of which were retested in a 1995 study. It involved seventy-nine college students taking a single spatial reasoning test derived from a subtest of the Stanford Binet Intelligence Scale, thought by the authors to best represent spatial-temporal reasoning. After taking the test together the first day, the students were divided into three groups for days two through five. Prior to retaking the test, twenty-six students listened to ten minutes of silence, twenty-seven students to ten minutes of Mozart, and twenty-six to a mix of minimalist music, dance music, and spoken text. The group that listened to Mozart improved significantly than other groups. But interestingly, on a separate short-term memory test, the presence of music made no difference at all. The authors concluded that the Mozart group's improvement was due to listening, while the silence group's improvement was due to a learning curve. “Several attempts by other researchers to replicate the Mozart effect under similar conditions have failed.” It is important to note that the results of these studies apply only to a single spatial subtest from the Stanford Binet intelligence scale; so the effect is much narrower than general intelligence as measured by IQ and it may be inappropriate to apply these findings to the musical education of children.

Keyboard Training
Several famous quotes illustrate the ways in which the results of some studies have been used to support the idea of a connection between music education and math and science. Most of studies had similar concepts; one group took lesson regularly and the other did not. The results could just as easily be stated, "Keyboard training has no impact on three out of four tests of spatial intelligence" or "Keyboard training helps children assemble puzzles rapidly," not quite the same as increasing their aptitude for math or science. As with the Mozart studies, the non-musical benefit was realized only for a very specific type of reasoning measured by a single standardized subtest.

National School Boards Association (NSBA), said, "I'm here to tell you that NSBA supports raising student achievement, and we know music can do that. Students who participate in music earn higher grades and score better on standardized tests. it has been reported that music students receive higher grades in math, English history, and science; higher test scores in reading and citizenship; and more general academic recognition than students who do not participate in school music activities. For SAT scores data, average SAT scores for music students are, indeed, above the average for all students and well above the average scores of students not participating in school fine arts study. However, they are not the highest. Math and verbal scores of students enrolled in acting and verbal scores of students studying drama appreciation were even higher. Additionally, scores of students enrolled in music appreciation were higher than those of students participating in music performance. “If we wish to argue that part of music's value lies in its correlation with higher test scores, we must also acknowledge that the study of acting and drama may be more valuable and that membership in a music appreciation class may be more valuable than ensemble participation.”


We, musicians, all heard about “Music makes you smarter” concept and I was always wondering if this idea is right or wrong; through this article, it really helped me to understand this idea. First of all, I was surprised that “Music makes you smarter” is not quite right since I, somewhat, believed in this concept would be correct. Personally, I thought “Mozart Effect” study was ridiculous and inappropriate; especially the procedure of this study was absolutely preposterous. Of course, I would suggest and support people to listen Mozart’s music but how can we determine if someone gets smarter in five days?
Moreover, result that people who participate in fine arts get better SAT scores was intriguing. Along with this concept, I also have many friends who studied music at undergraduate and go to Medical school or Law school and I think there are some relations.
Overall, in my opinion, participating in music surely does not interfere with academic progress. Even from my own experience, when I was in high school, I had satisfying grades from all academic courses while I was taking all music courses. Plus, most of friends who were taking same music courses, they were also great at academic courses. Some people say, music and other arts as frills that distract students from more important subjects but I disagree with this idea. I support what authors said about participating in music, “Whether or not music increases children's brain power, it clearly doesn't hurt it. Thus, the path to academic excellence would seem to involve multiple avenues rather than the single road of reading, writing, and arithmetic.”

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