Featured Data: Cognitive Effects of Music and Dance Training in Children (ICPSR 37080)

Musical training is popularly believed to improve children's cognitive ability. Early research evidence, mostly correlational, suggests that musicians outperform non-musicians on many cognitive abilities. However, recent experimental evidence has failed to replicate most benefits, leaving it unclear whether previously demonstrated effects were a direct result of learning music. While a few studies have shown some change with as little as a few weeks of training, the larger training literature shows that transfer of skills between unrelated areas is extremely rare, especially in properly controlled studies.

This study used an experimental design to assess the cause (whether music uniquely produces change) and the effect (which cognitive abilities are impacted) of the link between music and cognition. Six-year-old to nine-year-old children (n=75) with no prior training were randomly assigned to three weeks of music or dance training. Cognitive performance before and after training was compared between trained groups, since both training forms share features of training, plus with a non-trained control group to isolate training-induced change from normal maturation. No changes were found on any measured ability (inhibitory control, working memory, task switching, processing speed, receptive vocabulary, and non-verbal intelligence).

Findings confirm evidence from the general training literature that training-induced improvements on cognitive performance are unlikely. Short-term training effects have a much narrower scope than previous evidence suggests.

For more information, see the study homepage.

Jun 25, 2018

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