Harvard Study Says Music Won’t Make People Smarter

January 21, 2014

Unlocking Word Meanings

Read the following words/expressions found in today’s article. 

1. debunk /dɪˈbʌŋk/ (v.) – to prove that something is false
Example: Some scientists debunked the Flat Earth theory.

2. pair /pɛər/ (v.) – to join in groups of two members
Example: The researcher paired a girl and a boy for the experiment.

3. logic /ˈlɒdʒɪk/ (n.) – the way of reasoning or thinking about something
Example: Smart students show good logic in their opinions.

4. fade /feɪd/ (v.) – to slowly disappear
Example: Some great scientists who are not very popular fade from our memory.

5. commend /kəˈmɛnd/ (v.) – to approve or to praise
Example: My teacher commended me for my big improvement.


Read the text below.
Harvard researchers published a study that debunks the popular belief that music boosts one's intelligence.

The research was published in the journal PLOS ONE. It involved parents and their four-year-old children, who were paired and randomly assigned in two separate classesmusic and visual arts. Samuel Mehr, one of the researchers, conducted both the 45-minute classes for six weeks. 

Researchers then conducted tests to determine the relationship between music and arts lessons and mental capabilities. The tests covered math, logic, spatial navigation—the ability to navigate between different elementsand language abilities.

A previous paper published in 1993 stated that listening to Mozart’s works improves performance on logic. This phenomenon was called the Mozart effect. However, this theory faded later on because of weak evidence.

Similarly, results of Mehr’s study showed that music only had very little effect on the kids’ performance in the tasks. And when the researchers repeated the study with larger number of respondents, no significant results followed.

The findings of Mehr’s research concluded that music lessons may not be directly related to people’s mental capabilities. The only instance in which Mehr found music lessons’ positive effects was an experiment on piano and voice lessons. However, the benefit was very minimal.

Music’s ability to enhance intelligence has long been a common belief. Mehr and his colleagues hope that these claims will be gone through the help of their findings.

Ellen Winner, Boston College Psychology professor, commended the study’s attempt to reject the belief. She said that this popular idea can misguide kids on their learning.

Viewpoint Discussion

Enjoy a discussion with your tutor.  

Discussion A

·         After reading the article, would you still believe that music can make people smarter? Why or why not?
·         How else can people benefit from learning music?

Discussion B

·         How can one’s intelligence be improved?
·         What do you think are the advantages of improving one’s intelligence? Please discuss briefly.


January 21, 2014