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Long-term music instruction partially supports the development of socioemotional skills

Long-term music instruction partially supports the development of socioemotional skills

Name:Jed Villanueva

School/Affiliation:University of Southern California

Co-Authors:Beatriz Ilari and Assal Habibi

Virtual or In-person:In-person


The musical and socioemotional development of eighty-three children enrolled in either a music, sports, or no after-school program was followed over four years. Individuals in the music program received formal and systematic instruction in music theory, technique, and performance. Most participants in the control groups received no music education; however, in some instances, participants received minimal music education. A pitch-matching and drumming-based rhythmic entrainment task was used to measure musical development. Sharing behavior was measured using a variation of the dictator game, and empathy was assessed using three different assessments: the Index of Empathy for Children and Adolescence, the Reading the Mind in the Eyes Test, and a Fiction Emotion-Matching task. Results revealed no time-related associations in pitch-matching ability; however, formal music instruction did improve pitch-matching relative to controls. Formal music instruction was not as effective however in improving rhythmic entrainment ability; although there were trend level differences between music and two comparison groups, the observed improvements were best explained by general age-related changes over time. This study also found limited support for a positive association between formal music instruction and socioemotional skills. That is, individuals with formal music instruction exhibited improved emotion-matching relative to those with sports training. In terms of general socioemotional development, children’s trait-level affective empathy did not improve over time, while sharing, theory of mind, and emotion-matching ability did. Finally, pitch-matching and rhythmic entrainment ability failed to reliably predict any of the socioemotional measures, with effect sizes for any association reaching trivial to small levels.

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