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Cognitive and academic benefits of music training with children: a multilevel meta-analysis

Sala, Giovanni and Gobet, Fernand (2020) Cognitive and academic benefits of music training with children: a multilevel meta-analysis. Memory and Cognition. ISSN 0090-502X

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Identification Number: 10.3758/s13421-020-01060-2

Abstract

Music training has repeatedly been claimed to positively impact children’s cognitive skills and academic achievement (literacy and mathematics). This claim relies on the assumption that engaging in intellectually demanding activities fosters particular domain-general cognitive skills, or even general intelligence. The present meta-analytic review (N = 6,984, k = 254, m = 54) shows that this belief is incorrect. Once the quality of study design is controlled for, the overall effect of music training programs is null (g¯ ≈ 0) and highly consistent across studies (τ 2 ≈ 0). Results of Bayesian analyses employing distributional assumptions (informative priors) derived from previous research in cognitive training corroborate these conclusions. Small statistically significant overall effects are obtained only in those studies implementing no random allocation of participants and employing non-active controls (g¯ ≈ 0.200, p <.001). Interestingly, music training is ineffective regardless of the type of outcome measure (e.g., verbal, non-verbal, speed-related, etc.), participants’ age, and duration of training. Furthermore, we note that, beyond meta-analysis of experimental studies, a considerable amount of cross-sectional evidence indicates that engagement in music has no impact on people’s non-music cognitive skills or academic achievement. We conclude that researchers’ optimism about the benefits of music training is empirically unjustified and stems from misinterpretation of the empirical data and, possibly, confirmation bias.

Item Type: Article
Official URL: https://www.springer.com/journal/13421
Additional Information: © 2020 The Authors
Divisions: CPNSS
Subjects: L Education > LB Theory and practice of education
M Music and Books on Music > MT Musical instruction and study
B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BF Psychology
Date Deposited: 05 Jun 2020 09:27
Last Modified: 20 Oct 2020 06:04
URI: http://eprints.lse.ac.uk/id/eprint/104996

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