Elvis Has Left the Building: Correlational but Not Causal Relationship between Music Skill and Cognitive Ability

AbstractMusic training is commonly thought to have a positive impact on children’s cognitive skills and academic achievement. This belief relies on the idea that engaging in an intellectually demanding activity helps to foster overall cognitive function. We here present a meta-analysis of music-intervention studies in children (N = 3,780, k = 204, m = 43). Consistent with the substantial findings in the field of cognitive training, the overall effect size was small (g ̅ = 0.117, p < .001). Moreover, when active controls were implemented, the effect was practically null (g ̅ = 0.032, p = .477) and highly homogeneous (ω2 = 0.000 and τ2 = 0.000). Finally, we observe that several independent research groups have concluded, via different methodologies, that music skills acquired by training do not generalize to non-music skills. Thorndike and Woodworth’s (1901) common elements theory finds thus further support.

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