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Researchers Say Ideas About Music and Intelligence



Musical notes
Many people believe that teaching children music makes them smarter and better able to learn new things. But the organizers of a new study say there's no scientific evidence that early musical training affects the intelligence of young people.

An estimated 80 percent of American adults think music classes improve children's ability to learn and do well in school. Researchers at Harvard University, however, have found that there's one thing musical training does not do. They say it does not make children more intelligent.

Samuel Mehr is a graduate student in Harvard's School of Education. He says it is a mistake to think that learning to play a musical instrument improves a child's intellectual development.

He says the proof comes from studies that measured the mental ability of two groups of 4-year-olds and their parents. One group attended music class. The other went to a visual arts class. He says tests failed to provide evidence that those in music classes were any smarter.

Samuel Mehr says only one study of many has seemed to show a small percentage increase in IQ - intelligence scores - among students. But be says musical training can be important for cultural reasons. In his words, "We teach music because music is important for us". He notes that the works of writer William Shakespeare are not taught, so the children will do better in physics. He says Shakespeare is taught because it is important. And he doesn't think music needs to be any different than that.

A report on the effects of music training in children was published in the journal PLOS ONE.

For VOA Learning English, I'm Carolyn Presutti.

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