The Connection between Music and Intelligence

One of the most well-known concepts is that of Musical Intelligence.

Musical Intelligence is one of the multiple intelligences established by the American psychologist, Howard Gardner. His theory explains that there is not only one type of intelligence but 8 different types:

Everyone has all of these intelligences without any clear patterns. However, one type of intelligence may be more dominant than another.

Even if theory establishes that all intelligences are equally important, traditionally logical-mathematical intelligence and verbal-linguistic intelligence have been prioritised over others and are still considered more beneficial by most people.

Musical Intelligence belongs to the theory of multiple intelligences and refers to the capacity to discern, determine, transform and express musical forms, independent of listening skills. It includes one’s sensibility to rhythm, tone and timbre.

What is it like to be musically intelligent?

Musically intelligent people can more easily detect musical nuances, to think in terms of rhythm, timbre and tone as well as distinguish similar sounds played separately or at the same time. That way, they are more inclined to be able to express themselves musically.

This type of intelligence is divided into different abilities:

  • Sensibility to identify rhythm, tone, melody and timbre of a piece of music.
  • Ability to compose, interpret or adapt pieces of music.
  • Ability to recognise pieces of music from apparent noises.
  • Ability to recognise different music genres that can have an influence on a piece of music.
  • Ability to compose melodies by playing different objects spontaneously.

According to Howard Gardner, musical intelligence is one of the first types of intelligence that appear during child development, even from their first months.

Therefore, it does not depend on whether someone has received formal education in music or not. Additionally, it seems that musical intelligence is related to logical-mathematical intelligence and verbal-linguistic intelligence as well as to creative abilities.For this reason, some people suggest using stimulation programs at schools to develop this type of intelligence.

Music and Intelligence: the Myth of the Mozart Effect

One of the most well-known myths surrounding music and intelligence is the Mozart effect. It states that listening to classical music helps to improve children’s intelligence.

It was developed in 1993, as a result of an investigation carried out at the University of California, Irvine. In this study, a group of students was asked to listen to Mozart’s Sonata K448 for 15 minutes, and were later asked to complete a spatial reasoning test.

After the test, the results showed that students had improved their performance and had been more relaxed.

The advocates of this theory mention that Mozart’s music is very different from the rest of composers’ music due to some particularities in rhythm, melody, tone and timbre. This particular frequency of music stimulates the human brain since they are simple and pure sounds.

As a result, the media spread the news that listening to Mozart’s music would have a positive influence on infant physical and mental health, even improving their intellectual quotient (IQ).

Contrarily, many people questioned if this occurred on account of listening specifically to Mozart’s music or simply listening to pleasant music in general. Many other studies were carried out but none of them led to any conclusive results.

Nowadays, the Mozart effect is considered a myth as there is no conclusive evidence that Mozart’s music or classical music can improve intelligence. So, why were some students more efficient after listening to classical music? Simply because listening to music activates the same neural pathways than reasoning and, as a result music stimulation can help us to think better and faster. It also helps skills like memory, coordination and attention.

Despite other results, one thing that has been proven is the fact that playing an instrument leads to cognitive benefits such as improved language, memory and attention.

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