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New research disputes link between music and IQ

15 April 2013

Psychologists in Canada say new research proves that music does not boost children’s IQ. Many recent reports have made a link between music lessons and a child’s academic performance, but Professor Glen Schellenberg of the University of Toronoto says that evidence linking musical children to high achievement in school can be better explained by the fact that such children usually come from privileged backgrounds and have better educated and richer parents.

Schellenberg studied the link between musical training and intelligence in a group of 130 children aged 10 to 12. ‘We were motivated by the fact that kids who take music lessons are particularly good students. In school they actually do better than you would predict from their IQ, so obviously something is going on and we thought that personality might be the thing.’

But, presenting the study at the American Association for the Advancement of Science, Schellenberg said that the link between music lessons and intelligence was mainly down to the children’s personalities. And when the researchers took into account the likely contribution of each child’s personality to their school grades and IQ scores, and removed it from the equation, the link between music lessons and intelligence was no longer apparent. ‘You can explain almost all of the data by saying that high-functioning kids take music lessons,’ said Schellenberg.

Professor Daniel Levitin, a psychologist from McGill University in Montreal, said the findings did not mean music lessons were valueless. ‘There are benefits to having a society where more people are engaged with the arts, so even if music instruction doesn’t make you a better mathematician or a better athlete, even if it only gives you enjoyment of music, I think that is a good end in and of itself,’ he said.

The report is available at aaas.org by typing ‘music’ into the site search engine.

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