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Life in Brief — week of Dec. 29

New studies cast doubt

on musical advantages

Many experts and parents believe that exposing preschoolers to music “makes them smarter” — that is, gives them an advantage in cognitive development in other areas. But two new randomized trials have found no evidence for the belief.

In one trial, 15 4-year-olds accompanied by their parents attended six weekly 45-minute classes on musical arts, and a matched group of 14 attended classes on visual arts.

In a second test, 23 4-year-olds and their parents were assigned to music classes, and 22 to no classes at all. Children living with professional musicians and those already taking music lessons were excluded, and there were no significant differences between the groups in age, family income, ethnicity, parents’ level of education and other factors. The results were published in PLOS One.

After the classes were completed, researchers tested the children for skills in spatial, linguistic and numerical reasoning, but found no differences between the groups.

The authors acknowledge that they used only one music curriculum, and that a trial with a different kind or intensity of training might produce different results.

“We should be very cautious in making positive claims about cognitive benefits of music lessons,” said the lead author, Samuel A. Mehr, a doctoral candidate at the Harvard Graduate School of Education. He added, “We should teach music because music is important.”

— Nicholas Bakalar

New York Times

Hints from Heloise:

Readers suggest ideas
for keys, warm gloves

Lynn H. in Georgia writes: I seem to always have too much to carry when going from car to house and vice versa. My hands are full, and my keys are in my purse. I have to set all the stuff down just to dig through my purse to open the door. Now my keys have a ponytail holder on the key ring, so when I get out of the car or house, I can carry my keys, hands-free, around my wrist.

Jan S. in Rockville, Md. writes: On those very cold but sunny days, leave an extra pair of gloves on the dashboard of your car when you leave it for shopping, etc. Thanks to the sun having heated them, you will feel warm immediately.

A reader writes via email: To dust my keyboard and the back of the computer, I use my old, cleaned makeup brush. The bristles can get into the tiny, hard-to-reach crevices.

— King Features

New Year’s resolutions
most often involve cash

The top financial New Year’s resolution is to save money, according to a new survey by the website

Nearly 40 percent of us plan to save more in the coming year, beating out paying down debt as the top financial goal, the personal finance website found out. More than 29 percent of people polled said they want to focus most on reducing their debt in 2014.

Only 12 percent of those surveyed said their top financial priority is to invest while almost 11 percent want to focus on getting a raise.

— Donna Gehrke-White

Fort Lauderdale Sun Sentinel



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