Tuesday, January 14, 2020

Overall effect of music training programs in cognitive & academic benefits is consistently null, regardless of the type of outcome measure (verbal, non-verbal, speed-related, etc.)

Sala, Giovanni, and Fernand Gobet. 2020. “Cognitive and Academic Benefits of Music Training with Children: A Multilevel Meta-analysis.” PsyArXiv. January 15. doi:10.31234/osf.io/7s8wr

Abstract: Music training has repeatedly been claimed to positively impact on children’s cognitive skills and academic achievement. This claim relies on the assumption that engaging in intellectually demanding activities fosters particular domain-general cognitive skills, or even general intelligence. The present meta-analytic review (N = 6,984, k = 254, m = 54) shows that this belief is incorrect. Once the study quality design is controlled for, the overall effect of music training programs is null (g ̅ ≈ 0) and highly consistent across studies (τ2 ≈ 0). Small statistically significant overall effects are obtained only in those studies implementing no random allocation of participants and employing non-active controls (g ̅ ≈ 0.200, p < .001). Interestingly, music training is ineffective regardless of the type of outcome measure (e.g., verbal, non-verbal, speed-related, etc.). Furthermore, we note that, beyond meta-analysis of experimental studies, a considerable amount of cross-sectional evidence indicates that engagement in music has no impact on people’s non-music cognitive skills or academic achievement. We conclude that researchers’ optimism about the benefits of music training is empirically unjustified and stem from misinterpretation of the empirical data and, possibly, confirmation bias. Given the clarity of the results, the large number of participants involved, and the numerous studies carried out so far, we conclude that this line of research should be dismissed.

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