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August 30, 2004

BehindTheMedspeak: Do music lessons increase IQ?


Yes, says E. Glenn Schallenberg of the University of Toronto.

In a paper just published in the journal Psychological Science, he reports that 144 6-year-olds were divided into four groups: those who received keyboard lessons, voice lessons, drama lessons, or no lessons.

Children receiving the keyboard and voice lessons showed gains in IQ of 7 and 6 points, respectively.

Kids receiving drama lessons improved 5 points.

And the ones left alone to just be kids? They improved 4 points.

Now, wait a minute.

You're telling me that the conclusion of this study is that music lessons increase IQ?

What a crock.

No wonder the term "junk science" exists.

The trouble is, that's what most of the science reported in daily newspapers is.

Sure, Schallenberg and his research team used all kinds of fancy-shmancy statistical tests to show that the difference between 4, 5, 6, and 7 IQ points was statistically significant and therefore supported their conclusion.

But I'm here to tell you, as one who used to massage data just this way until it squeaked and said "enough," if you do enough statistical tests enough different ways, eventually anything can be proved.

Why do you think Disraeli's epigram, "There are three kinds of lies: lies, damn lies, and statistics," is so beloved in the research community?

Here's Shankar Vedantam's story about the new study, which appeared in this morning's Washington Post.


Music Lessons and Kids' IQ

Music lessons trigger increases in the IQs of 6-year-old children, according to one of the most thorough studies on the subject.

Although previous research had hinted that musical training was associated with better literacy, math and spatial skills, much of it had compared children getting music lessons only with those getting none, leaving open the questions of whether children getting the lessons had certain family advantages to begin with, and of whether the improvements were the result of music specifically or just the result of structured, extracurricular training in an artistic skill.

A new study by E. Glenn Schallenberg at the University of Toronto addressed these questions by recruiting 144 6-year-olds into four groups: those receiving voice lessons, keyboard lessons, drama lessons and no lessons. (Kids in the last group were given free keyboard lessons after the study was completed.)

Children receiving the voice and keyboard lessons showed small but clear improvements on IQ tests, gaining an average of six and seven IQ points, respectively.

Children receiving drama lessons had an increase of five points, while the children getting no lessons had an improvement of four points.

In a paper published in the current issue of Psychological Science, Schallenberg concludes that musical training in particular was responsible for the extra IQ points.

However, Schallenberg's study also revealed a unique advantage gained by the drama group: The young actors showed improvements in social skills that were not evident in the other groups.

August 30, 2004 at 09:01 PM | Permalink


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I absolutely 100% do NOT believe that Music increases IQ

Posted by: Improve iq | Dec 1, 2005 9:11:07 PM

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