Music and Cognition

According to this meta-analysis, recently published in Memory & Cognition, music training has no significant effect on cognition.


It has been stated that music fosters children's cognitive skills and academic performance. Learning to play the violin or piano, recognizing tones, and maintaining rhythm are often presented as effective tools for cognitive improvement.

However, the idea that practising cognitively demanding tasks can lead to general mastery cognitive improvement is a very bold statement that contrasts with empirical evidence in cognitive science and educational psychology. In fact, while human cognition has been shown to be malleable and to change as a function of training, skill transfer seems to be limited to the training domain and, at best, to other similar domains.


In other words, in general terms, it cannot be said that participating in intellectually demanding activities fosters general cognitive skills in particular, or even general intelligence. The results of Bayesian analyses using distribution assumptions (informational background) derived from previous research in cognitive training corroborate these conclusions.


Furthermore, it is observed that, beyond the meta-analysis of experimental studies, a considerable amount of cross-sectional evidence indicates that participation in music has no impact on people's cognitive skills or non-musical academic performance.


The authors of the meta-analysis therefore conclude that the researchers' optimism about the benefits of music training is empirically unwarranted and is due to misinterpretation of the empirical data and possibly confirmation bias.