The idea that studying music improves the intellect is not a new one, but at last there is incontrovertible evidence from a study conducted out of the University of Toronto.
The study, led by Dr. E. Glenn Schellenberg, examined the effect of extra-curricular activities on the intellectual and social development of six-year-old children. A group of 144 children were recruited through an ad in a local newspaper and assigned randomly to one of four activities: keyboard lessons, voice lessons, drama lessons, or no lessons. Two types of music lessons were offered in order to be able to generalize the results, while the groups receiving drama lessons or no lessons were considered control groups in order to test the effect of music lessons over other art lessons requiring similar skill sets and nothing at all. The activities were provided for one year.
The participating children were given IQ tests before and after the lessons. The results of this study revealed that increases in IQ from pre- to post-test were larger in the music groups than in the two others. Generally these increases occurred across IQ subtests, index scores, and academic achievement. Children in the drama group also exhibited improvements pre- to post-test, but in the area of adaptive social behavior, an area that did not change among children who received music lessons.
This study is published in the August issue of Psychological Science, a journal of the American Psychological Society. View a PDF (78k) of the full article.
E. Glenn Schellenberg is currently with the Department of Psychology at the University of Toronto at Mississauga. He can be reached via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Psychological Science is ranked among the top 10 general psychology journals for impact by the Institute for Scientific Information. The American Psychological Society represents psychologists advocating science-based research in the public's interest.
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