Study Finds Link Between Arts and Attention

Training in the arts may lead to benefits in attention, among other cognitive skills, according to recently published study.

Wednesday March 12th - 11:01am

Research begun by the Dana Foundation in 2004 aimed to study how training in the arts affects other areas of learning has recently been published. The study, which employed neurologists and cognitive psychologists from seven leading U.S. universities studied a broad program of arts learning and other cognitive abilities.

In some of the research programs, links were found between music training and manipulating information in working and longterm memory; between music and fluency when learning a second language; between dance and the ability to learn by observation; and between acting and memory skills.

Michael Posner, professor emeritus at the University of Oregon and an adjunct professor at Cornell University, has suggested that these links may exist because arts training motivates student to pay attention. Training attention leads to success and achievement in a variety of cognitive tasks. Learning in the arts may encourage such training as it combines the need for close attention with an arguably more enjoyable task than many academic ones.

While the study cannot conclude anything about causality, and does not provide definitive answers, it lends evidence to the need for music and arts programs, and seems to suggest that students are not simply right- or left-brain learners.

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