BRAMS – CRBLM Lecture Series: STUDENT ACTIVITY – Journal Club discussion of an article
Discussion of Sala, G., & Gobet, F. (2020) Cognitive and academic benefits of music training with children: A multilevel meta-analysis
Please see the controversial article that will be featured during the discussion next week. Please ensure that you read the article prior to the activity to allow for active participation!
Abstract: Music training has repeatedly been claimed to positively impact on children’s cognitive skills and academic achievement. This claim relies on the assumption that engaging in intellectually demanding activities fosters particular domain-general cognitive skills, or even general intelligence. The present meta-analytic review (N = 6,984, k = 254, m = 54) shows that this belief is incorrect. Once the study quality design is controlled for, the overall effect of music training programs is null (τ2≈ 0) and highly consistent across studies (τ2 ≈ 0). Small statistically significant overall effects are obtained only in those studies implementing no random allocation of participants and employing non-active controls (τ2≈ 0.200, p < .001). Interestingly, music training is ineffective regardless of the type of outcome measure (e.g., verbal, non-verbal, speed-related, etc.). Furthermore, we note that, beyond meta-analysis of experimental studies, a considerable amount of cross-sectional evidence indicates that engagement in music has no impact on people’s non-music cognitive skills or academic achievement. We conclude that researchers’ optimism about the benefits of music training is empirically unjustified and stem from misinterpretation of the empirical data and, possibly, confirmation bias. Given the clarity of the results, the large number of participants involved, and the numerous studies carried out so far, we conclude that this line of research should be dismissed.