The benefits of music

You may have heard of the Mozart effect. Simply said, this claims that ‘listening to Mozart makes you smarter’, or a more moderate version is that children who listened to Mozart’s music perform better for some mental tasks. But is this really true?

Some studies suggest there is a short-term improvement of some cognitive skills, but the evidence is scarce. In a recent Harvard study music education of young children and the influence on cognitive skills was investigated. Samuel Mehr, the first author on the study, made a video that addresses the key points of the paper:

In the video (and in the paper) he explains how they could not find statistically relevant evidence that preschool music enrichment improves cognitive skills. Does that mean that previous reports on this effect are false? Not necessarily: he just says that more research is needed, and I think that’s true. I know this is a complex matter, but there is surprisingly little material to be found on the benefits of music education. Even for this study it’s not hard to find ways to improve it (mostly because of the limited resources they had available): for example, preferably there would be larger sample sizes, different types of musical training and a longer period of training and observation.

Samuel also adds his own opinion (in the video, not in the paper) about teaching music classes in school: he says “I don’t think there is any reason to teach music for reasons other than the fact that we think it is important, just like all the other academic subjects.” On this point I disagree however because of the reason why we think it is important. Sciences for example are more likely to be useful for the future careers of children/students, even in case they won’t directly need sciences for their jobs.

I could go further into detail about my opinion, but first I would like to hear yours!

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