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Music and Cognitive Abilities

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Does music make you smarter? Music listening and music lessons have been claimed to confer intellectual advantages. Any association between music and intellectual functioning would be notable only if the benefits apply reliably to nonmusical abilities and if music is unique in producing the effects. The available evidence indicates that music listening leads to enhanced performance on a variety of cognitive tests, but that such effects are short-term and stem from the impact of music on arousal level and mood, which, in turn, affect cognitive performance; experiences other than music listening have similar effects. Music lessons in childhood tell a different story. They are associated with small but general and long-lasting intellectual benefits that cannot be attributed to obvious confounding variables such as family income and parents' education. The mechanisms underlying this association have yet to be determined.

Keywords: cognitive development; intelligence; music cognition

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: University of Toronto, Mississauga, Ontario, Canada

Publication date: December 1, 2005


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