Music Enhances Our Intelligence
The largely acclaimed Mozart effect has become a source of many controversial claims over the effect of music on human intelligence. The claim came after a report by a team of three professionals (Frances Rauscher, Gordon Shaw, and Katherine Ky) stated that the performance of college students on spatial subtests improved after listening to Mozart’s first movement for 10 minutes (Hetland 105). The proponents of the claim have indicated that there is evidence-based proof that indeed music has an effect on an individual’s intelligence, but with more bias towards growing children. Most of these proponents have moved, however, from Frances, Gordon, and Katherine’s claim that music enhances our intelligence, to music training/lessons as having the effect of increased intelligence. Oppositely, detractors of the claim have contested, through evidence-based proof, that music in its passive listening has no effect on the intelligence levels of individuals. A number of scholarly articles have addressed the argument on music training’s effect on intelligence. Among these scholarly articles, include Schellenberg’s “Music Lessons Enhance IQ”, which supports the claim of music lessons as an intelligence enhancer. Katrin Hille et al. support this through a research article titled “Association between music education, intelligence, and spelling ability in elementary school.” Susan Hallam, in an article titled “The power of music: Its impact on the intellectual, social, and personal development of children and young people” also offers insight on the part that music plays in the enhancement of intelligence. A research report by Sylvain Moreno et al. titled “Short-Term Music Training Enhances Verbal Intelligence and Executive Function” reports on the effect of music training for 20 days on children’s verbal intelligence. The most important question therefore is, “does music enhance our intelligence?” The argument herein is that, while the Mozart effect is hard to recreate and therefore difficult to ascertain its effect on intelligence, music training does enhance human intelligence.
The Mozart effect claim stands as one of the most outstanding claims to relate music to improved human intelligence. As fronted by Frances, Gordon, and Katherine, the claim caused a stir given its magnitude. Part of the objection to the claim emanated from the fact that it objected previously established views of transfer and modularity. The view on transfer is founded on the premises of one learning supporting other varieties of tasks. This view on however contends that such a feat is “difficult to achieve, especially when the transfer is “distant” (i.e., between two very different kinds of performances), as in the case of music and spatial processing” (Hetland 105). For modularity: the mind comprises distinct units trained towards specific information variety, and therefore music and spatial information would have different processing. The strongest objection for the Mozart effect is however the claim “that the Mozart effect is difficult to replicate” (Schellenberg 1). Research to replicate the claims was futile since the desired effect as claimed by the three was not achieved. Given such shortcomings of the claim, it is therefore safe to say that music in its very least does not enhance intelligence. Besides, the research was conducted over a small sample, was nonreplicable and made unsubstantiated claims, which did not stand tests on their credibility. Thus since the credibility of any experiment and results of the said experiment auger on the authority of its author and the ability to successfully replicate the experiment, such unsubstantiated and nonreplicable claim do indeed confirm the fact that music does not enhance intelligence.
Given such a shortcoming in the Mozart effect claim, researchers have opted for replicable arguments that involve music-lesson training. Thus, while it may be possible that the “Mozart induces more positive moods and relatively optimal levels of arousal, which lead to higher levels of performance on tests of spatial abilities” (Schellenberg 1), many have doubted whether it was really the music that was accountable for the sudden surge in the temporary intelligence. The music, in this case, only acts as an arousal agent, which then motivates the individual into performing much better in the spatial test. In essence, the music has no effect on human intelligence. In any case, no evidence is there to suggest, “Passive listening to music can improve the long-term intelligence” (Hille et al 1). What is noteworthy is that passive listening of music is not much different from staying in a room in silence, apart from the mood elevation; it has no intellectual effect on the individual, and consequently does not enhance intelligence. Therefore, while most of the studies done have included both passive listening to music and music lesson training, most have concluded that passive listening to music does not enhance human intelligence. On the contrary, active engagement with musical instruments has been found to actively increase intelligence in humans.
Contention is however on whether only music can cause a rise in intelligence. This line of argument contends, “Preference is linked to arousal, and arousal is linked to enhanced cognitive performance” (Hetland 107). This argument follows research done, in which after listening to Mozart and a horror story by Stephen King, both participants performed equally in spatial tests. In contrast, participants who preferred Mozart and King both performed highly after listening to Mozart and King respectively. The claim here therefore is that it is not only music, which can increase intelligence. This argument specifically contradicts the claim that “musical abilities and training sharpen the brain” (Hallam 271). For Hetland, therefore, temporal increase in intelligence is dependent on the prevailing conditions. Therefore, any favorable condition, such as arousal and motivation can cause a surge in an individual’s intelligence. Music in this case, does not qualify as a favorable condition, and therefore not a trigger to enhanced intelligence.
Such contentions (arousal and intelligence) do not however take into consideration research that shows a positive correlation between time and manipulation of music instruments. For this line of argument, the engagement with musical instruments is the main reason for the increased intelligence. According to Hallam, “Extensive active engagement with music can induce cortical reorganization. This may produce functional changes in how the brain processes information” (270). It follows through that with the reorganization of the brain, as well as changes in the way the brain processes information, it is possible to get new insights to issues and events, more quickly than the dormant brain. This in the very least is increased intelligence. An argument against such a claim however states that such associations between music and intelligence are flimsy since it is possible that the association could “stem from a common component, such as general intelligence” (Schellenberg 1). The argument here therefore is that music lessons and the length of time a learner manipulates music instruments has no effect on intelligence. Rather, children with high IQs are mostly enrolled in music lessons, and conclusively, the reason for their high performance in other areas. The contention here is that music training has no relation with human intelligence, thus is does not enhance it.
The manipulation of music instruments for a long time does not however only have effects on the verbal IQ of individuals who opt for taking music lessons. One of the major groundbreaking stirs brought by the contention of the Mozart effect was the displacement of the theory of transfer. This was in addition to the theory of modularity. As earlier indicated, the theory of transfer contends, “it is notoriously difficult to achieve” (Hetland 105) transfer of one kind of learning to the performance of other unrelated tasks. This theory contends that, by learning how to play a guitar, it does not follow through that the individual will be better in arithmetic. The idea here is to refute the claim that training in music has significant influence on other processes. Studies by Moreno et al have however proven otherwise. Indeed, according to Moreno et al., training in music has significant influence on the performance of other tasks. The most visible transfer of music skills has been evidenced in speech processing. The association between music and speech “has been reported at both sub-cortical and cortical brain levels” (Moreno et al. 1425). The sub-cortical and cortical involve auditory processing and implicit processing respectively. The association furthermore transcends to “the functional level, having been reported for both lower-level (i.e., pitch discrimination) and higher-level (i.e., semantic processing; syntax) aspects of cognition” (Moreno et a. 1425). By learning how to play music instruments following the intricate patterns of music formation and key discrimination, it is possible to also discriminate pitch in normal speech and discern the individual’s mood. This is in addition to the discernment of meaning within different contexts and language structures, all learnt through the discrimination of pitch and other elements of music formation. The idea here therefore is that by learning certain elements of music processing, it is possible for such individuals with music training to use such skills in conventional speech and interactions.
The role of music training does not however stop at language processing; it transcends to language acquisition. According to Hille et al., “musical aptitude was found to correlate with second language acquisition” (2). By enhancing individual auditory skills and sometimes in foreign languages, music training aids the subsequent acquisition of the language. The auditory skills are therefore not only used in music and the first language, they find their use in the acquisition of a second language. This translates to the intelligent transfer of one skill to another, only possible through enhanced intelligence. Yet second language acquisition is one among the many intelligence domains enhanced by music training. It is factual that “musical aptitude is associated with literacy, reading and writing, general intelligence…and mathematics achievement” (Schellenberg 2). Thus far, the role of music training in enhancement of intelligence also transcends related task association such as music and speech to include distant relations, such as mathematics. The enhancement of arithmetic skills occurs from the fact that learners require in depth knowledge of keys, half, full, quarter, and so forth. Care is particularly important for achievement of harmony and therefore the need for careful calculation on which keys to use to achieve musical harmony. This is a direct correlation to intelligence, which is transferred to arithmetic, and essentially enhanced intelligence through music training.
Little correlation exists between passive music listening and changes in intelligence. As evidenced, however, there is high correlation between music training and intelligence. Different aspects of cognitive and motor skills are enhanced with music training. While the contention was that transfer of skills learnt in music lessons are impossible to other related and unrelated tasks, as it was suggested by the Mozart effect, it has been evidenced through research that indeed it is possible to transfer skills learnt in music to other processes, such as reading and writing, different speech processes, spelling and mathematics. Much of these transfers are however easier in instances when the tasks at hand are closely related. Nevertheless, the transfer is possible. While more research on the relationship between music training and intelligence is still underway, preliminary research have found positive correlation between music training and intelligence. It is therefore safe to state that music training, contrary to rejection by others, indeed enhances intelligence.
Hallam, Susan. “The power of music: Its impact on the intellectual, social and personal development of children and young people.” International Journal of Music Education 28.3 (2010):269-289. Print
Hetland, Lois. “Listening to Music Enhances Spatial-Temporal Reasoning: Evidence for the “Mozart Effect.”” Journal of Aesthetic Education 34.3/4 (2011):105-148
Hille, Katrin et al. “Associations between music education, intelligence, and spelling ability in elementary school.” Advances in Cognitive Psychology 7 (2011):1-6
Moreno, Sylvain et al. “Short-Term Music Training Enhances Verbal Intelligence and Executive Function.” Psychological Science 22.11 (2011):1425-1433
Schellenberge, E. Glenn. “Music Lessons Enhance IQ.” Psychological Science (2009):1-5