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LOS ANGELES. Music lessons, and even simply listening to music, can enhance spatial reasoning performance, according to research presented at the 102nd Annual Convention of the American Psychological Association.

The new findings were presented by psychologist Frances Rauscher, Ph.D. and neuroscientist Gordon Shaw, Ph.D., representing a research team from the University of California at Irvine.

Dr. Rauscher and Dr. Shaw's studies confirm, and substantially extend their earlier research which demonstrated an unmistakable causal link between music and spatial intelligence. This further research will have considerable potential to reverse the commonly-held view of music education as essentially irrelevant to intellectual development.

The researchers note that well-developed spatial intelligence is the ability to perceive the visual world accurately, to form mental images of physical objects, and to recognize variations of objects. The researchers theorize that spatial reasoning abilities are crucial for such higher brain functions as music, complex mathematics, and chess. As many of the problems in which scientists and engineers engage in cannot be described in verbal form, progress in science may, in fact, be closely linked to the development of certain spatial skills.

Dr. Rauscher and Dr. Shaw's results show that the spatial reasoning performance of 19 preschool children who received eight months of music lessons, far exceeded the spatial reasoning performance of a demographically comparable group of 15 preschool children who did not receive music lessons.

Moreover, scores on a puzzle task, designed to measure spatial reasoning ability, increased significantly during the course of the period they received the music lessons. This experiment was designed to follow up on results generated by a preliminary pilot study completed by the researchers in 1993.

The second experiment, presented at the meeting by Dr. Rauscher and Dr. Shaw, expanded on their widely-reported study published by Nature in October 1993, which found that listening to 10 minutes of Mozart's Piano Sonata K 448 increased spatial IQ scores in college students, relative to silence or relaxation instructions. The new findings replicated the effect, and found no increase in spatial skills after subjects listened to 10 minutes of either a composition by Philip Glass or a highly rhythmic dance piece, suggesting that hypnotic musical structures will not enhance spatial skills.

Dr. Rauscher and Dr. Shaw suggest that these two complementary studies have serious educational and scientific implications. "We are in the process of designing further studies directed toward strengthening the enhancing effect of music training on spatial reasoning that we found for the preschoolers. We hope our research will help convince public school administrators of how crucial music instruction is to all children," they explained. Dr. Rauscher and Dr. Shaw also plan experiments which will begin to examine the neuronal mechanisms responsible for the causal link between music and spatial intelligence.

Presentation: Music and Spatial Task Performance - A Causal Relationship, by Gordon Shaw, Ph.D.; Frances Rauscher, Ph.D; Linda Levine, Ph.D.;

Katherine N. Ky, Ph.D.; and Eric L. Wright, University of California. 11:00 - 11:50 AM, Westin Bonaventure, Los Angeles, Lobby Level, Santa

Barbara Room B. (Session 2128)

The American Psychological Association (APA), in Washington, DC, is the largest scientific and professional organization representing psychology in the United States and is the worldUs largest association of psychologists. APA's membership includes more than 124,000 researchers, educators, clinicians, consultants and students. Through its divisions in 48 subfields of psychology and affiliations with 57 state and Canadian provincial associations, APA works to advance psychology as a science, as a profession, and as a means of promoting human welfare.


Music and Spatial Task Performance

Music and Spatial Intelligence

Dr. Shaw

Dr. Frances Rauscher