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Does Music Make Us Smarter?

When you Google the question, “Does music make you smarter?” the very first link comes from a musical instrument store that makes this claim: “There’s a lot of evidence that playing an instrument is good for your brain.” It goes on to say, “Children who play in bands and orchestras get better grades” and “research suggests that exposure to music positively impacts a child’s reading age, IQ and brain development.”

In other words, the clear message is that, yes, music makes you smarter. But even though many people believe that, our next guest says there’s no evidence it’s true — no scientific or medical research showing that musical training is linked to cognitive benefits. In fact, he’s conducted one of the few and most recent studies looking into whether music boosts brainpower.

Guest

Samuel Mehr, doctoral student at the Harvard Graduate School of Education. You can find his research paper here.

More

The New York Times, “There are many plausible alternative explanations for correlations between music lessons and cognitive benefits. Parents who can afford private music lessons might also be more likely to read to their children than to sit them in front of the TV. Children willing to practice an instrument daily might also persevere longer than their peers on their math homework. Greater ability to memorize historical facts or spelling bee words may facilitate better retention of rhythms, melodies and chord progressions.”

 

 


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Hosts Meghna Chakrabarti and Anthony Brooks introduce us to newsmakers, big thinkers and artists and bring us stories of relevance to Bostonians here and around the region. Live every weekday at 3.

WBUR's Sacha Pfeiffer is co-hosting Radio Boston while Meghna Chakrabarti is on maternity leave.

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