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A meta-analysis: Does music really improve intelligence?

A meta-analysis: Does music REALLY improve intelligence?
Let’s go back to one of our essential questions. Does playing an instrument make you a smarter person? We can answer that question by taking a look at some review papers called meta-analysis that actually suggest training in music does not boosts your intelligence. What’s a meta-analysis? In this type of research, you collect all the results of a given field and calculate whether the net outcome of the literature goes in one direction or in no direction at all. For example, you collect all the results that compare the effect of music experimental training on intelligence or cognition, and compute whether music is good or bad. In a recent meta-analysis, Sala and Gobet analyze all the experimental music training available in the literature.
They compared several studies and tried to understand whether or not music activity is good for you. They analyzed only true experiments and looked for various types of benefits, not only on intelligence, but also on memory and other types of cognitive abilities. They calculated the net effect of music training across studies and found that overall music training has small to null effects on cognition. Although they indeed observed a positive effect of music training on intelligence relative to control groups, they noticed that only a few studies where methodologically sound. In fact, often those study that showed positive results of the music training were carried out with poor methodological standards.
In practice, they argue that many of the results out there are perhaps not very solid because studies were not carried out with the necessary attention and rigor. Commenting on the literature, Sala and Gobet questioned whether we may really expect the so-called far transfer. What is a far transfer? When we train for something such as we repeatedly go to the gym, we might reasonably expect to improve our skill in an activity we did not actually train for, but that share something in common with the trained activity, for example, our performance on the athletic beach. In the end both activities benefit from a fit body.
However, if we expect to observe an effect of the gym activity on our ability to write a novel,
we’re dealing with a far transfer: the two activities have really few common and there is no reason to believe the one will be beneficial for the other. According to the authors, along with many others in the literature who support the same idea, the training to become a musician and intelligence have really too few in common to expect that the music activity might be beneficial for your cognition and improve your intelligence. In fact, they suggest that when studies are methodologically sound and well carried, for example, the study by Glenn Schellenberg that was previously discussed, the effect of the music training on intelligence is small to null.
Perhaps the question we should ask ourselves is not whether musicians are more intelligent than non musicians, or whether the music training may boosts your intelligence. The very question we should ask is why a musician should be more intelligent than a non musician and in particular, why musical training should improve our intelligence.

We saw that experiments comparing the intelligence of musicians and nonmusicians show an advantage of the first in comparison to the latter, an advantage that is clearer at small ages.

We also saw that we should trust experimental studies more and that some of these experimental studies show an advantage of music training in comparison to other types of training. So does playing an instrument make you a smarter person?

In this video, we’ll see that some review papers called meta-analyses suggest that training in music may not be as good as we may hope.
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Music and Intelligence: Can Music Make You Smarter?

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