The role of music in the capacity of children to learn Essay
The role of music in the capacity of children to learn
Music is the arrangement of sounds to a synchronized melody or pattern - The role of music in the capacity of children to learn Essay introduction. It has been coined as organized sound. Music has been the subject of numerous studies focusing on the effect on individuals of exposure to such organization of sounds. Several studies have been conducted in order to find out the relationship of music with other forms of intelligence – particularly those not musical in nature. Some experiments have tested whether music has effects on memory recall or whether exposure to music at an early age develops a greater capacity for learning. The latter is the focus of this paper.
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It has been generally hypothesized that the presence of music serves to heighten individual intelligence or memory recall. Not only this, but the level of attention associated with learning to play musical instruments or the mere skill of music appreciation is hypothesized to have a long-term effect on an individual’s intelligence quotient. Of particular interest herein is the effect of early exposure to different classes of music as well as early exposure to music lessons on a child’s future performance in the academe and other similar measures of intelligence.
One particular field of study concerning music and intelligence focuses on classical music’s effects on individual aptitude. The Mozart Effect started out as a theory on whether or not experiencing Mozart might improve the spatial intelligence of the listener. Several studies reflected that indeed listening to Mozart did enhance spatial intelligence. The research even showed that listening to Mozart improved children’s math skills. Such findings encouraged the introduction of Mozart in classes as encouraged by education boards. Particularly so when researchers found that listening to Mozart helped to decrease attacks in seizure victims. It was argued that the organization of Mozart’s music was in turn reorganizing the abnormal neuronal firing of seizures.
The imposition of listening to Mozart in schools caused reactions from the public since spatial skills could as well be developed by practice. Such protestations were brushed aside however since music offered a free development of spatial intelligence with individuals not being required to exert effort in practice and the like.
However, it should be noted that the particular studies conducted which studied the Mozart Effect focused on the difference in performance of a single task first without the presence of music and, in the second, with the presence of music. Such a design is problematic since there is no accounting for the practice effect that takes place as the participants repeat the same task. Therefore, it might not have been the music which improved the subject’s performance but simply the previous exposure to the particular task. Some of the studies had exclusive populations for each situation, thus controlling for practice effects. However, there was still no accounting for previously held capacities for spatial tasks.
The only argument offered in response to such criticism is the affirmation that music is innately pleasurable as proven by processes observed in the neural system. It was found that listening to music strongly modulates activities in brain structures, such as the amygdale, hypothalamus, insula, and orbitofrontal cortex, and dopamine pathways that determine pleasurable reward emotions. It is therefore held that this pleasure state serves as a motivator for improved performance in individuals, particularly so in children. Considering the strong impact of reward systems on early childhood learning, such an argument is not void of reason. Particularly so with the interaction of neural systems thus serving to convert the extrinsic motivator, the music, to an intrinsic one emerging from personal gratification. Such logic is particularly in sync with learning and developmental theories portraying the child as ego-driven and focused on the self. However, the review did not focus on results of studies as applied to children and the long-term effects that repeated exposure to Mozart might have on the intelligence of children.
Furthermore, the said arousal of emotions in individuals reflects an enhanced state of learning to which the listener is exposed. Such state of arousal facilitates the consolidation of data into the long-term memory of individuals. This is what takes the place of practice which also serves to transfer data from short-term memory to long-term memory storage. The research does not reflect however the difference in performance as reflected by exposure to music and as reflected by mere practice.
Many reviews have criticized the studies reflecting the significance of the Mozart Effect however. It is argued for example that the measures taken to demonstrate the significance of the Mozart Effect are highly task dependent since all the participants were made to complete a spatiotemporal paper and pencil task. Furthermore, replication of the study with the introduction of different tasks to perform does not yield significant findings. Despite such inconsistencies in the data however, the general public still believe that music exposure is directly linked to increased intelligence. This is due in part to the high levels of publicity that early studies received concerning the significance of their findings. Taking into consideration the need for substantialization of findings, closer scrutiny of the basis of the Mozart Effect should be made. Future studies should take a look at the character of the task reflecting significance and attempt to duplicate the findings with a similar task.
Many studies have been conducted apart from the Mozart Effect studies. One focus has been the effect of having background music play inside the classroom – music not necessarily taken from Mozart’s collection. A study focusing on the arousal effects of music on test performance revealed that to children who perceived the music to be soothing, an improvement in test performance was observed whereas in children who perceived the music to be stressful, there was deterioration in performance level. It was also found that listening to soothing background music was related with greater completion of mathematical problems although not to the accurate completion of these problems.
Such findings have been associated with the conclusion that mood affects individual performance. Considering that it is generally accepted that music plays a part in creating positive or negative moods, it is not surprising that listening to music is also related with the effect of such moods on performance. Positive moods are associated with enhanced performance whereas negative moods are associated with a decrease in performance. Furthermore, positive mood has been found to increase cognitive task performance and altruism. Such research conclusions support the findings of Hallam et al. regarding the labeling of music as soothing or stressful and the effect of the same on math and altruism tests. However, neither test reveals an increase in intelligence in participants subjected to background music while in class. There is also only an account of aroused affect yet no neural mapping of neural connections or chemical substances triggered.
Apart from listening to music, studies have also considered the effect of musical training on non-musical cognition. A study was conducted regarding the intelligence of students who were given musical training, those who were given drama lessons, and those who were not subjected to any sort of extra-curricular artistic training. It was found that the intelligence quotient of the students who underwent musical training surpassed the others by 4.3 to 7 IQ points. The trion model has been employed to account for such findings.
Being the most popularly cited neuroscientific theory, the trion model is also cited herein to explain the relation of musical instruction with increased cognitive and academic performance. The trion model posits that music releases vibrations similar to neuronal firing patterns in the brain thus the exposure to music prepares the brain to handle spatiotemporal and cognitive tasks. The enhanced firing of neurons reflects a state of preparation wherein the neural system is conditioned for performance in particular tasks.
Another theory that is used to explain the effectiveness of musical training in enhancing intelligence is the transfer theory. This theory posits that musical training and spatiotemporal tasks require related types of reasoning and skills. Therefore, the knowledge gained from the former may be applied to the latter. The prior exposure to and development of required skills grants individuals exposed to musical training an edge over others who have not been exposed to the same.
Neural Plasticity During Childhood
The changes associated with exposure to music have been reflected to have only a temporary effect on listeners. It was found that the effect of enhanced performance as a result of listening to music lasts for around ten to fifteen minutes after the exposure. This study was conducted with adult participants and thus it was posited that given relatively plastic neural systems, a more permanent effect should be observed regarding the priming of the brain for cognitive and spatiotemporal tasks.
Such studies are what encouraged the exposure of infants and even of fetuses inside the womb to music with the belief that such an exercise would increase intelligence. Given the plasticity of the brain, the ability to form new neural connections, during infancy, it is quite logical to believe that temporary connections established frequently during the stage of formation would translate into permanent neural connections. This gives us the importance of exposing children to music at an early age. Future research should therefore be geared towards conducting longitudinal studies regarding the effect of early exposure to music or musical instruction on and cognitive abilities in adulthood. Considering the past research done in this field, focus should be made on domain-related tasks which pertain to related required skills. This does not mean that purely musically related intelligence should be studied. It should be kept in mind that music is associated with certain forms of intelligence and with particular areas of the brain. Therefore, related forms of intelligence and neighboring areas in the brain should be studied in relation to musical training and music exposure.
Chabris, C. F. “Prelude or Requiem for the Mozart effect?” Nature 402, (1999): 826-827.
Crncec, Rudi, Wilson, Sarah J., and Prior, Margot. “The Cognitive and Academic Benefits of Music to Children: Facts and fiction.” Educational Psychology 26, no. 4, (2006):579-594.
Goldman, Richard Franko. “Varèse: Ionisation; Density 21.5; Intégrales; Octandre; Hyperprism; Poème Electronique. Instrumentalists, cond. Robert Craft. Columbia MS 6146.” Musical Quarterly 47, no. 1, (1961):133–34.
Graziano, A., Peterson, M. and Shaw, G. L. “Enhanced learning of proportional math through music training and spatial-temporal training.” Neurological Research, 21, (1999):139–152.
Hallam, S., Price, J., Katsarou, G. “The effects of background music on primary school pupils’ task performance.” Educational Studies 28, (2002):111–122.
Isen, A. M. “A role for neuropsychology in understanding the facilitating influence of positive affect on social behaviour and cognitive processes.” In C. R. Snyder & S. J. Lopez (Eds), Handbook of positive psychology. New York: Oxford University Press. (2002): 528-540.
Schellenberg, E. Glenn. “Music and Cognitive Abilities.” Current Directions in Psychological Science 14, no. 6, (2005):317-320.
Waterhouse, Lynn. “Mulitple Intelligences, the Mozart Effect, and Emotional Intelligence: A Critical Review.” Educational Psychologist 41, no. 4, (2006): 207-225.
 Richard Franko Goldman, “Varèse: Ionisation; Density 21.5; Intégrales; Octandre; Hyperprism; Poème Electronique. Instrumentalists, cond. Robert Craft. Columbia MS 6146,” Musical Quarterly 47, no. 1, (1961):133–34.
 Lynn Waterhouse, “Mulitple Intelligences, the Mozart Effect, and Emotional Intelligence: A Critical Review,” Educational Psychologist 41, no. 4, (2006): 214.
 A. Graziano, M. Peterson, and G. L. Shaw, “Enhanced learning of proportional math through music training and spatial-temporal training,” Neurological Research, 21, (1999):148.
 Waterhouse, “Mulitple Intelligences, the Mozart Effect, and Emotional Intelligence: A Critical Review,” 214.
 Waterhouse, “Mulitple Intelligences, the Mozart Effect, and Emotional Intelligence: A Critical Review,” 214.
 Ibid, 215.
 C. F. Chabris, “Prelude or Requiem for the Mozart effect?” Nature 402, (1999): 826.
 S. Hallam, J. Price, and G. Katsarou, “The effects of background music on primary school pupils’ task performance,” Educational Studies 28, (2002):118.
 Ibid, 114.
 A. M. Isen, “A role for neuropsychology in understanding the facilitating influence of positive affect on social
behaviour and cognitive processes,” In C. R. Snyder & S. J. Lopez (Eds), Handbook of positive psychology. New York: Oxford University Press, (2002):534.
 Rudi Crncec, Sarah J. Wilson, and Margot Prior, “The Cognitive and Academic Benefits of Music to Children: Facts and fiction,” Educational Psychology 26, no. 4, (2006):584
 Ibid, 585.
 E. Glenn Schellenberg, “Music and Cognitive Abilities,” Current Directions in Psychological Science 14, no. 6, (2005):317.