Skip main navigation

Quasi-experiments vs. experimental studies

There is a limit to the studies that are investigating musicians versus non-musicians.
0.6
In this step, we’ll look at the kinds of studies that compare musicians and non-musicians, specifically the limits of these investigations. If we compare musicians and non-musicians, we are simply conducting a correlational study, thus we can’t collect solid evidence that music training actually boost intelligence. Why not? You may ask, well, the main problem is that the participants are not assigned randomly to the conditions of the experiment that it’s being a musician and being a non musician. It’s merely a correlation and not causation. If we want to investigate a possible cause and effect relationship, we need to conduct a true experiment. And if you want to run a true experiment, we first need to select a random sample of individuals.
54.7
At this point, we have to provide music training to a random subsample. And then the remaining participants are given either of these two treatments. One is a passive control condition and the other is an active control condition. A passive control condition is generally doing nothing during the time of training, while an active control condition entice doing something isn’t expected to have a beneficial effect on intelligence, such as a pottery class. A more optimal setup would be to have all three groups together so that we can compare conditions. Why can’t an experiment comparing musicians and non-musicians provide the same answer?
102
Well, if we have an experiment that compares the two, musicians and non-musicians where already formed and established, making it difficult to know whether they were different before the research. In true experiments, we can select participants so that the starting conditions are under control. Again, in the studies comparing musicians and non-musicians, we can’t. So why? You may ask if intelligence is so important, Why don’t we conduct experimental studies? I mean, everybody wants to be intelligent. We got to know how to expand our intelligence.
142.2
Well, a big hindrance is cost: true experiments of this kind are expensive and take an extremely long time in providing the answer being looked for. For example, if we assume that we need three years of training to observe some effect of the music training, we need to plan a study that is at least three years long. We need to pay for a school of music or a music teacher for three years. We need to pay for all the participants that are recruited in the study and that are enrolled in the music condition. We also need to cross our fingers and hope that the participants carry on the experiment from beginning to end. Three years is a long time.
185.9
Things change and many may begin today, but drop after a few months because of several reasons. Last but not the least, imagine that after three years nothing happens. Can we say that the music training was ineffective? Maybe not, maybe we simply needed a longer training, four, five or even more years. In short, true experiments may give the final answer, but they are difficult to put in place because they require a long effort from the scientists who want to conduct them. By the same token, studies that compare musicians and non-musicians seem to be able to provide answers to questions that would be impossible to implement in true experiments.
231.3
For example, we can compare individuals with no training, an individuals with decades of training. We can explore the possible role of the type of training. For example, the type of instrument, whether the musician follow with the music school or is self taught, and so on. Studies that compare musicians and non musicians may not give all the answers we need to understand whether music training may boosts your intelligence. However, for several reasons, true experiments are difficult to execute. In fact, the literature provides only a few limited number of true experiment, but it has been done. In the next step, we’ll see one of the best examples of true experiments in the psychology of music.

There is a limit to the studies that are investigating musicians versus non-musicians.

The limit is that this type of research gathers merely correlational data, and it isn’t possible to draw a cause and effect relationship when you are conducting correlational studies. To do that, you need experimental studies.

Watch the video to find out more.
This article is from the free online

Music and Intelligence: Can Music Make You Smarter?

Created by
FutureLearn - Learning For Life

Our purpose is to transform access to education.

We offer a diverse selection of courses from leading universities and cultural institutions from around the world. These are delivered one step at a time, and are accessible on mobile, tablet and desktop, so you can fit learning around your life.

We believe learning should be an enjoyable, social experience, so our courses offer the opportunity to discuss what you’re learning with others as you go, helping you make fresh discoveries and form new ideas.
You can unlock new opportunities with unlimited access to hundreds of online short courses for a year by subscribing to our Unlimited package. Build your knowledge with top universities and organisations.

Learn more about how FutureLearn is transforming access to education