Does piano playing make children smarter?

Pianist, writer and teacher, Andrew Eales, responds to a new research study in his post on the website,

In recent years a succession of academic papers, blog posts and media articles have pushed the view that learning a musical instrument can have the knock-on effect of essentially making children smarter.

However, that view is now challenged in a research paper by Giovanni Sala, a PhD candidate in cognitive psychology, and Fernand Gobet, Professor of Decision Making and Expertise, both at the University of Liverpool, and published in the Journal of the European Association for Research on Learning and Instruction (EARLI), February 2017.

One difficulty in responding to Sala & Gobet’s findings is that alongside their strongly evidenced research paper they have also written a short blog post with the eye-catching title, ‘No proof music lessons make children any smarter’, which is aimed at the general reader, and is now being widely shared online via social media.

In their blog post, Sala & Gobet rather sensationally conclude:

“The results were clear, if disappointing – music is unlikely to provide any benefits for cognition and academic achievement.”

This contrasts with the rather more measured tone of their actual research, which concludes (among many other things):

“Due to the lack of well-designed studies, the question of whether music training enhances children’s and young adolescents’ intelligence- and memory-related skills is still unanswered.”

In this post I will be looking beyond Sala & Gobet’s blog to consider this rather more carefully nuanced academic paper, while offering a few comments, questions and personal observations which I hope might stimulate thought among the music teaching community.

Image from Pixabay, reproduced under Creative Commons CC0.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s