Kudos to the UBC researchers for the large-scale study, but what should probably be made more clear is that it is a correlational study which does not allow cause-effect conclusions. These researchers did concede that point near the end of their article. (Also see my Psychology Today article, “The Bias of Seeing Cause in Correlation.”)

This limitation is why I appreciate the careful language in Bergland’s article, that there is only a “link” or an “association” and that music engagement “may” have a “potential” positive influence on academic achievement. In other words, the data are not a slam dunk to bring back more music programs.

That said, the UBC researchers did cite some past experiments that showed music instruction did cause some cognitive benefits. Moreover, data exist to rule out many (though not all) third variables including socioeconomic background and prior learning in science and English. These facts seem vital within the complex story to conclude, as Bergland seems to, that there are growing indications of the benefits of music education.