Win Friends & Influence People Through Music — Is It Possible?

The idea that studying music improves the social development of a child is not a new one, but at last there is incontrovertible evidence from a study conducted out of the University of Toronto.

The study, published in the August issue of Psychological Science was led by Dr. E. Glenn Schellenberg, and examined the effect of extra-curricular strategies to improve reading fluency activities on the intellectual and social development of six-year-old children. A group of 144 children were recruited through an ad in a local newspaper and assigned randomly to one of four activities: piano lessons, voice lessons, drama lessons, or no lessons.

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Two types of music lessons were offered in order to be able to generalize the results, while the groups receiving drama lessons or no lessons were considered control groups in order to test the effect of music lessons over other art lessons requiring similar skill sets and nothing at all. The activities were provided for one year.

The participating children were given IQ tests before and after the lessons. The results of this study revealed that increases in IQ from pre- to post-test were larger in the music groups than in the two others. Generally these increases occurred across IQ subtests, index scores, and academic achievement.

While music teachers across the country greeted the new research enthusiastically, in fact, many other studies have previously shown a correlation between music study and academic achievement.

In 1997, well known music researchers Frances Rauscher, Gordon Shaw and their team at the University of California (Irvine) reported that music training is far superior to computer instruction in dramatically enhancing children’s abstract reasoning skills, the skills necessary for learning math and science. A group led by the same two scientists had earlier showed that after eight months of piano lessons, preschoolers showed a 46 percent boost in their spatial reasoning IQ.

The March 1999 issue of Neurological Research published a report by another group of researchers, also at the University of California (Irvine), who found that second-grade students given four months of piano keyboard training, as well as time playing newly designed computer software, scored 27% higher on proportional math and fractions tests than other children.

Students with coursework and experience in music performance and music appreciation scored higher on the SAT, according to a Profile of Program Test Takers released by the Princeton, NJ, College Entrance Examination Board in 2001. This report stated that students in music performance scored 57 points higher on the verbal and 41 points higher on the math, and students in music appreciation scored 63 points higher on verbal and 44 points higher on the math, than did students with no arts participation.

Another part of this same study shows that longer music study means higher SAT scores. For example, students participating in the arts for two years averaged 29 points higher on the verbal portion and 18 points higher on the math portion of the SAT than students with no coursework or experience in the arts. Students with four or more years in the arts scored 57 points higher and 39 points higher on the verbal and math portions respectively than students with no arts coursework.

Another study also found support for a relationship between math achievement and participation in instrumental music instruction. The researchers found that students who participated in instrumental music instruction in high school took on the average 2.9 more advanced math courses then did students who did not participate.