Intelligence is defined as the ability to acquire and apply knowledge and skills. This simple fact was my first cause for skepticism when I saw an article that has been circulating entitled, “The Mozart Effect myth: research finds music doesn’t make you smarter.”
There is a direct correlation between learning any new skill to increased intelligence; otherwise there is no point in teaching at all. Brain plasticity shows that learning instruments (or any skill) directly changes the neuron connections in the brain and increases the inter-connectivity between different parts of the brain.
In reality, the article isn’t really addressing The Mozart Effect, so the title itself is misleading. The Mozart Effect has nothing to do with learning music theory. The Mozart Effect is a set of research results indicating that listening to Mozart’s music may induce a short-term improvement on the performance of certain kinds of mental tasks known as “spatial-temporal reasoning.” The irony here is that while the author mistakenly invokes The Mozart Effect they also included this line:
“While the music group did perform slightly better at one spacial [sic] task, there wasn’t much of a difference between either group in cognition, nor vocabulary or mathematics.”
So, there was an increase in the student’s performance when it came to a spatial task – the specific type of reasoning that The Mozart Effect hypothesis claimed that listening to music improved.
When you are in a classroom of twenty or more four year olds and in music class that lasts a mere six weeks, it is unlikely that any of these children were learning to play an instrument in any meaningful way. This article leads people to believe that listening to music and learning music at an intermediate or higher level are the same thing. Listening to music when you are a skilled musician is so very different than just at an appreciation level.
Being exposed to music will most certainly increase your thinking capacity, and learning music theory even more so. Then there are also the fine motor skills that have to be developed and refined in order to play a musical instrument. Learning new skills and introducing new stimulus will always make your thinking process more complex.
Written by Dave Bolla