Many people believe that listening/playing music can make you smarter, but is that really true? I’m sure most people are aware of the “Mozart Effect,” which says that listening to Mozart “temporarily increases spatial abilities.” But, it’s possible that listening to music just relaxes people, making it so that they can focus better, and doesn’t directly affect the brain. Can music increase the IQ in the long run?
According to an article by Donald Hodges, it really depends how you look the question “Does music make you smarter?” People can’t assume that if someone is musically inclined, it means that they are smarter. For example, it would be hard to say that a student with a music degree is smarter than a biochemist or astrophysicist. But, it is possible that it can increase the IQ, and make the average person slightly smarter. According to the Huffington Post, scientists have learned a lot about the brain through Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging, and Positron Emission Tomography. They learned that different functions have different parts of the brain, and when participants listened to music, it caused many parts of the brain to be put to use.
In Canada, 144 six year olds signed up to get art lessons (which is either drama, keyboard, or voice lessons). The kids were assigned randomly to 4 different groups. One group was taught how to play the keyboard and another group was taught vocal lessons. The other 2 groups were the control groups; one group was taught drama lessons while the other group had no lessons. Twelve students dropped out of the experiment, so now 132 children were examined. Each group had 2 different instructors, and taught only 6 children at a time. The children were tested before and after the lessons as well.
The results are shown in the following graph. The mean increase in IQ of students who got voice/keyboard lessons was higher that those who got drama/no lessons. So, it’s possible that music lessons cause a small increase in IQ. This study also shows that it isn’t just general lessons that raise IQ, since the drama students did not show as big of an increase in IQ, which helps prove that music can make people smarter.
It is impossible to do a randomized double blind control trial, since the children will know what lessons they are getting, but it is a randomized control trial, since they were randomly put into their groups. When the kids signed up for the experiment, they were only told they would be learning some type of art, and they were not able to choose. Since they had different instructors, it could affect the results. It’s also possible that one teacher is better with kids, which could affect how much they learn, and their increase in IQ, which in turn could throw off some of the data.
Meta-Analysis (Studies comparing music instruction to math skills)
Vaughn, a scientist, did a meta-analysis of 6 studies, studies that tested if music can increase mathematic skills. There were overall 357 participants, who were children with ages ranging from 3-12. After examining the conclusions of the six studies, Vaughn came to the conclusion that music instruction does not increase mathematic skills. Three of the studies concluded that music instruction does increase mathematic skills, while the other three said it had no effect. It’s possible that any of the six studies were due to chance, and made the wrong conclusion (meaning they were either false positives or false negatives).
So, should a rational person drop everything they’re doing, and try to learn an instrument? I wouldn’t say so. Even though the first experiment showed that getting music lessons raised the IQ of students, it isn’t significant enough to make a big change in your day-to-day life.