The Cognitive and Academic Benefits of Music to Children: Facts and fiction

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Abstract:

There is considerable interest in the potential non‐musical cognitive and academic benefits of music listening and instruction to children. This report describes three lines of research relevant to this issue, namely, the effects of: (1) focused music listening on subsequent task performance (the Mozart effect); (2) music instruction; and (3) background music listening. Research suggests that while Mozart effect studies have attracted considerable media attention, the effect cannot be reliably demonstrated in children. In contrast, music instruction confers consistent benefits for spatiotemporal reasoning skills; however, improvements in associated academic domains, such as arithmetic, have not been reliably shown. Finally, background music may calm and focus children with special education needs, thereby enhancing learning. Additional research is required to determine whether this effect is evident in normal populations. Overall, evidence for the non‐musical benefits of music listening and instruction is limited. The inherent value of music and music education should not be overlooked by narrowly focusing on cognitive and academic outcomes.

Document Type: Research Article

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/01443410500342542

Affiliations: School of Behavioural Science, University of Melbourne, Australia

Publication date: August 1, 2006

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