Does music increase intelligence and does it have a role in education?

Posted: February 11, 2013 in Uncategorized


“Music is an art of sound in time that expresses ideas and emotions in significant forms through the elements of rhythm, melody, harmony, and color”. ( We can hear music on the TV, radio, in hotel lobbies, streets, and pretty much anywhere we go as the sound of music is not far away and wide spread. Music has become an important part of our lives and can affect our senses as the rhythm and tempo can influence respiratory systems while it is played. (Bernardi, Porta & Sleight, 2005) Therefore if we know it can affect our senses, what other influences can music have on our lives and its importance in cognitive development and education?


One studied example that suggests music has a role in spatial reasoning is called the “Mozart effect”. Playing musical numbers composed by Mozart has been seen to increase brain development and falsely associated with intelligence in children and adults alike. (Rauscher, 1993) Although since the first finding, all other studies found no significance after replicating the Mozart study on influence in IQ. (Steele, 1999)  As I explored through the Internet further, more and more studies did not show this effect and disproved the first finding, as mood was the main factor in performance and not the music, however spatial reasoning did show a significant effect. As stated in my first blog, a state found one finding and promoted vigorously in order to become the most successful state. This yet again happened using the Mozart effect with Georgia state sending CD’s of classical music to parents in order to promote higher order processing in brain growth as Rauscher (1993) study suggested. Although research was not fully carried out, a statement from the governor of Georgia, Zell Miller, said after playing a short piece of classical music at a conference “Don’t you feel smarter already.” was a wild claim as Rausch then publicly stated that he did not associate his study with intelligence increases rather only spatial, therefore explaining why no evidence was found by other researchers when testing for IQ. This was a highly controversial topic, which was much influenced by the media attention and the misinterpretation of Rausch’s findings, however all was made clear during 1999 after he addressed the scientific world.


We now know that the Mozart effect could be used for developing spatial reasoning in infants and possibly children with difficulty in mathematics, however are there any effects with music. Norton (1979) studied the relationship of music ability compared to auditory and visual conservation in kindergarten children. He found that music ability does not affect the visual conservation and therefore no significance but was different as more musically able children better equipped for the auditory conservation. This was an important study in order to show that educators should not assume that visual conservers are auditory conservers. This study therefore shows that music training is important in order to increase the children auditory conservation skills in order for them to keep both auditory and visual equal.


One other finding of research worth mentioning is that from Schellenberg (2004), where he tested students in music group and a control group (non-music/drama) on whether or not attending these groups affected IQ. His findings were that they did not affect IQ and again causes more confusion as drama groups did show an improvement pre to post condition. This again shows that music does not affect intelligence, rather drama lessons do.


The findings from my blog topic have been rather surprising to say the least, although many articles on the internet and books suggest that music does affect IQ and intelligence, the research disproves this. Rauscher made a great and influential discovery, which was miss-interpreted and subsequently criticized; however his findings did not suggest that IQ was affected by the Mozart effect only spatial reasoning. Norton’s results also showed similar findings that auditory maturity is affected but visual is not, which does make sense however Schellenber’s as discussed above does not show IQ differences in music classes but does in drama. Although I have only briefly discussed this topic, the evidence therefore shows no clear benefits on education and music, although motor skills and spatial reasoning are important features within it. Music does serve an importance in society and is this enough to keep it within our education systems? I cannot answer that question as there still seems to be advantages to having music classes and disadvantages, but promoting drama classes with music it may be an answer as it does seemingly increase individuals IQ which can only be positive for the school and the children!




Bernardi, L. (2006). Cardiovascular, cerebrovascular, and respiratory changes induced by different types of music in musicians and non-musicians: the importance of silence. Heart. 92 (4), 445-452.

Steele, K. M. (1999). The Mystery of the Mozart Effect: Failure to Replicate. Psychological Science. 10, 366.

Rauscher, Frances H.; Shaw, Gordon L.; Ky, Catherine N. (1993). Music and spatial task performance. Nature. 365 (6447): 611

Norton. D. (1979). Relationship of Music Ability and Intelligence to Auditory and Visual Conservation of the Kindergarten Child. Journal of Research in Music Education. 27 (1), 3-13.

Schellenberg. (2004). Music lessons Enhance IQ. Psychological Science. 15 (8), 511-514.

Here is the Talk linked to this Blog:

  1. rebeccaholder28 says:

    I read your blog and was surprised by the results of the studies you have used, purely because I was under the impression based on past readings that learning is enhanced by the use of music. So therefore, I decided to delve back in to the literature and see what I could find. Firstly, Wallace (1994) found that through the use of a melody/song that participants had better recall of text than when it was spoken to them, however they had to of heard at least 3 verses of the song for recall to be better. They then further concluded that this better recall was due to the fact that music chunks words and phrases, identifies line lengths, identifies stress patterns, and adds emphasis as well as focuses listeners on characteristics. Therefore music and its structure can assist in learning by the retrieval of the text.

    Furthermore, I too came across the study by Schellenberg (2004) however the results gained between the 2 conditions of drama (control) or music lessons actually showed that when compared with children in the control groups, children in the music groups exhibited greater increases in IQ. The effect was quite small, but it generalized across all IQ subtests, index scores, and a standardized measure of academic achievement. However, children in the drama group exhibited considerable pre- to post-test improvements in ADAPTIVE SOCIAL BEHAVIOUR that were not evident in the music groups, not IQ as previously stated.

    All in all, as with every area of research and psychology there are always studies that will support a concept whilst others will go against it. Music, learning and IQ seem to be one of these topics that can’t appear to find a definitive common ground.

    Memory for music: Effect of melody on recall of text. Wallace, Wanda T. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition, Vol 20(6), Nov 1994, 1471-1485. doi: 10.1037/0278-7393.20.6.1471

    Schellenberg. (2004). Music lessons Enhance IQ. Psychological Science. 15 (8), 511-514.

  2. psuce says:

    I really enjoyed reading your blog this week. Hallam (2009) found research has discovered that learning to play an instrument enlarges the left side of the brain which helps them to remember almost a fifth more information which supports the idea that music does increase intelligence as they are able to remember better. A study by Chabris (1999) also supports the idea that music increases intelligence as students showed an increase of 1.4 general IQ points between participants who had listened to music compared to silence. However we could question this as the effect is quite small. I particular liked the way at the end of the blog you have brought everything together and concluded nicely.

    Chabris (1999)
    Hallam (2009)

  3. Duffy & Fuller, (2000), in an 8 week intervention five ‘target’ social skillls acorss conditions, did not produce any significant affect. But it is the social interaction that was seen as being enhanced.
    Duffy, B. and Fuller, R. (2000), Role of Music Therapy in Social Skills Development in Children with Moderate Intellectual Disability. Journal of Applied Research in Intellectual Disabilities, 13: 77–89. doi: 10.1046/j.1468-3148.2000.00011.x

  4. N.M. Music has a power of forming the character and should
    therefore be introduced into the education of the young.
    N.M. Music is a moral law. It gives soul to the universe, wings to the
    mind, and life to everything… Without music, life would be an
    (Plato) I wanted to post this but me and technology do not always see eye to eye.*

  5. psuc18 says:

    I found the topic of your blog was very interesting this week. I have always wondered how the concept of keeping the radio on in the background helps some people remember their revision better whilst completely distracting others from their work. I have often thought that this was just down to personal preferences and individual differences however after reading our blog this week I decided to investigate further into the field.
    Like yourself I came across various studies conducted by Schellenberg. I found one particularly interesting and corresponds with what you have stated in your post. In 2005 he claimed that music hearing and music lessons have been shown to improve intellectual abilities. However he found that the evidence suggests that the beneficial effects are short-term advantages and (as you have previously stated) actually stem from the impact that listening to music has on an individual’s mood which then, in turn, will go on to affect that person’s cognitive performance.
    Therefore I still believe that it is dependent on the particular individual whether he/she will perform better on a cognitive task than others when listening to music or not because it depends entirely on what sort of impact that particular piece of music will have upon his/her mood.


    Schellenberg. E. G. (2005). Music And Cognitive Abilities. A Journal for the Association for Psychological Science. 14. 6. 317-320.

  6. I’m glad this topic came up. I think you were on the right track with your research however it was inevitable that you were going to come to an undecided and solid conclusion. This is because of problems within intelligence research. Before I go on I would like to point out that I believe that a musical intelligence does exist, personally I want it to be true as I am deeply involved in music myself. Gardener (2000) a relatively recent researcher into intelligence was the first psychologist to include musical intelligence as one of the factors contributing to G (overall intelligence) in what he called his theory of multiple intelligence, this frustrated many orthodox intelligence researchers however. Mainly due to one reason. The G factor of intelligence, which in layman’s terms can be interpreted as fluid intelligence or out cognitive power, reasoning etc. This is separate from Gc, or crystallized intelligence, in other words our compiled knowledge and ability to capture and retain that knowledge. According to these orthodox researchers G is the one true construct of intelligence and cognitive abilities such as musical ability are usually not classed under this but instead as a crystalized intelligence Gc. The majority of intelligence research is made to measure G, not Gc, especially not more specifically musical intelligence. Which is why I believe many of the tests that try to correlate intelligence with musical ability do not come out positively.

    • Gardener, H., (1989) Educational Implications of the Theory of Multiple Intelligences. Educational researcher, doi: 10.3102/0013189X018008004.

      (I posted the wrong date in my comment)

  7. ccpeers92 says:

    I am one of those people who needs to be in the quiet when revising, any sort of noise is a distraction to me. Music is beneficial in enhansing mood, alleviating anxiety and can improve congnitive function, however two studies I have looked into say it has no benefit on academic work. Wiley (2010) found that music does not increase ability in cognitive tasks and silence produces the best performance. Furnham (1999) found that introverts were more negatively effected by distractors (music, background tv etc) than extroverts, in 3 tasks, comprehension, prose re-call and mental arithmetic. They only found a significant result for the comprehension however the introverts still performed less well than the extroverts in all 3 tasks. I think that is interesting. When reading aloud I think I would be able to try and blot out the music, but in a comprehension/arithmetic I think you really need 100% focus.

    Wiley – Blackwell (2010, July 28). Background music can impair performance, cites new study. ScienceDaily. Retrieved February 13, 2013, from­ /releases/2010/07/100727112521.htm

    Furnham, A. and K. Allass (1999). “The influence of musical distraction of
    varying complexity on the cognitive performance of extroverts and introverts.” European Journal of Personality 13(1): 27-38.

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