Classical Music and Cognitive Development

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Classical Music and Cognitive Development

Maria Tuttle


April 8, 2013

Jody Pendleton, PsyD

Classical Music and Cognitive Development

There are multiple claims on the effects of music can on cognitive development, specifically classical music. Though not all of the most intellectual people had exposure or enjoy classical music, there have been claims that classical music can have positive effects on cognitive and neural development. The statement that classical music can enhance cognitive development has not been proven one way or another, but studies have been done to investigate this claim. The studies can be researched to evaluate the validity and reliability of each claim. In the following pages, an assessment will be made of negative and positive findings on the effects of classical music on cognitive development and whether or not ethically they should be endorsed.

According to authors Strait and Kraus, there is an association with music learning and rhythmic tune and child literacy and cognitive development. They state, “The connection between rhythm and reading abilities may reflect the fundamental importance of rhythm for both music and language production and perception”, this sentence backs up the claim that music can enhance cognitive development, although not necessarily that of the classic genre (p.140). They continue on to make statements of how music can help detect reading deficits rather than cause them, mentioning how children with offbeat and slow rhythms are connected to reading impairments like dyslexia. The conclusion of their findings was that because of the nature of mechanisms used in brain processing in reading and speech processing that are common to music as well, “… music may be useful for promoting the development and maintenance of auditory skills and for improving the efficacy of remedial attempts for individuals with auditory impairments” (Strait & Kraus, 2010). This particular review of the cognitive connection to music shows that there is some validity and truth in music playing a role in certain cognitive development, although, there is no specific link in this article to classical music or that of any other genre.

Though hard to find specific studies on classical music and cognition, publications about playing music and cognitive development are plentiful. While this may be just a lack of interest in the specific genre, it may also be that findings do not support the statement that classical music does indeed enhance or have an effect on cognitive development. A study published by Eugenia Costa-Giomi of McGill University showed that learning the piano at a young age affected overall spatial cognitive development, but not quantitative or verbal cognitive abilities (1999). She studied specifically fourth through sixth graders taking piano lessons over a span of three years versus a control group who did not. The studies previously done in this field did not show definite answers to the question at hand, which was music learning, specifically the piano and its effects on cognitive development in children.

After research was conducted and this study was complete, Costa-Giomi found that, “It is unclear which types of spatial abilities are affected by music instruction, and it is also unknown whether the improvement in spatial abilities is long-lasting” (p.199). Another factor to consider when looking at the big picture of classical music affecting cognitive development is that this study was not about just listening to music; it was learning how to play it as well. Some may say that these findings are irrelevant to the claim, but the piano is a staple in classical music melody and rhythm. This study more or less is able to delve deeper into the classical music aspect of the general claim, as one instrument was picked out and a hypothesis was formed. The ultimate findings in this study was that , “The results of the study show...
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