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Helpfulness Improves Dramatically Among Music-Making Preschoolers

Preschoolers who make music become much more helpful toward their peers and have greater problem-solving skills, according to new research. In fact, the findings showed that helpfulness among children who were placed in a music group improved by more than 30 times, compared to the non-music group.

Building on previous research, which had shown that making music significantly improved prosocial behavior in young children, the new study investigated the effects of singing or playing an instrument on both prosociability and problem-solving — and whether there was a difference between boys and girls.

The study, which explored the prosociability, cooperation and problem-solving skills of 24 girls and 24 boys, was conducted by undergraduate student Rie Davies and Dr. Maddie Ohl and Dr. Anne Manyande from the School of Psychology at the University of West London.

The 4-year-old children in the study were randomly assigned to one of two groups: a music group or a ‘no music’ group. Children in the music group sang and played the percussion bullfrog and children in the no-music group listened to a story.

Both groups then participated in two games:  a ‘cooperation’ game and a ‘helping’ game. The children’s problem-solving skills were measured by observing their reactions during the ‘helping’ game.

The findings revealed that helpfulness among children in the music group improved by over 30 times, compared to those in the ‘no music’ group. Girls were over 20 times more likely to help than boys.

Making music also was proven to improve cooperation among all the children in the music group who were six times more likely to cooperate than those in the ‘no music’ group. Once again, girls were even more likely to cooperate after music making than boys. Boys in the music group were also four times more likely to problem-solve.

“This study provides support for prior research by Kirschner and Tomasello (2010/2011) and also highlights the need for schools and parents to understand the important role music making has in children’s lives in terms of social bonding and helping behaviors. Music making in class, particularly singing, may encourage pupils with learning differences and emotional difficulties to feel less alienated in the school environment,” said Davies.

Source:  British Psychological Society

Children and teacher playing music photo by shutterstock.

Helpfulness Improves Dramatically Among Music-Making Preschoolers

Traci Pedersen

Traci Pedersen is a professional writer with over a decade of experience. Her work consists of writing for both print and online publishers in a variety of genres including science chapter books, college and career articles, and elementary school curriculum.

APA Reference
Pedersen, T. (2018). Helpfulness Improves Dramatically Among Music-Making Preschoolers. Psych Central. Retrieved on November 26, 2020, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 8 Aug 2018 (Originally: 8 Sep 2013)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 8 Aug 2018
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