Does Listening to Classical Music Make You Smarter?

In 1991, an idea known as the Mozart Effect was first introduced. The Mozart Effect was defined as “a set of research results indicating that listening to Mozart’s music may induce a short term improvement on the performance of certain kinds of mental tasks known as “spatial temporal reasoning.” Was the Mozart Effect correct? Does listening to classical music make you smarter? The public quickly accepted this idea that listening to classical music would make them smarter and many parents began playing classical music to their children. A Gallup Poll even showed the extent of the parent’s blind trust in that “85 percent of Americans …believed that children in music programs were likely to have better grades and achieve higher test scores.”

Unlike the parents who simply accepted the idea, researchers reacted to “The Mozart Effect” by conducting more experiments that tested whether or not listening to music (the environment’s role: nurture) played an impactful role towards intelligence (gene’s role: nature). In one specific case, researchers from the University of California- Irvine tested spatial temporal reasoning in which thirty-six students were given a series of mental tasks to complete after listening to either ten minutes of silence, ten minutes of relaxation instructions, or ten minutes of Mozart. The results concluded that even though students who listened to the Mozart music actually performed better at the spatial tasks and tasks involving creating shapes with their minds, the so-called “Mozart Effect” only lasted on average 15 minutes. Therefore, the results of this study were able to conclude that listening to classical music does lead to temporary improvements in brain abilities and activity, but, since the improvements are not long-lived, it does not affect intelligence.

In another case, Lois Hetland of Harvard University did a study in which she replicated previous Mozart effect studies. (Science is an error detection system with organized skepticism.) Her results found that the experimental group, the group of participants who listened to classical music, actually did perform better than the control group, the group of participants who did not listen to classical music. Many other studies on the idea of “The Mozart Effect” found similar “mixed” results.

These “mixed” results are due in part to the third variables. For instance, although the participants were randomized in the studies, an individual participant could have had different learning interests and weaknesses that affected the results. In addition, other third variables such as chance, gender, musical taste, innate spatial ability, and personal ability could have also had an effect on the results.

In her article “Does Listening to Mozart Really Boost Your Brainpower? ”, Claudia Hammond wrote “that classical music could make children more intelligent, but when you look at the scientific evidence, the picture is more mixed.” After researching the different studies, I can confirm that she could not be more correct. There is nothing wrong with people listening to classical music, but there is not enough data (and too many third variables) to prove that it will actually make them smarter.

During the first week of class, Andrew told us that science is anti-authoritarian. The fact that the public had accepted the Mozart Effect so quickly and blindly shows the lack of understanding that science can be challenged by anyone and the importance for people to never blindly accept information, but, instead, challenge it by forming their own hypotheses and testing them.





3 thoughts on “Does Listening to Classical Music Make You Smarter?

  1. sjb5895

    This article reminds me of that scene in the move The Incredibles when the babysitter makes the baby listen to Mozart, and I have always wondered if that was real or not. I am actually surprised to read that there is not enough evidence to provide that this theory is true, so the theory is either proven wrong or a false negative. Maybe scientists should perform an experiment where some kids who listen to regular music like a guitar or something and other kids listen to Mozart and then maybe we can see if music has an affect on young infants at all or if it is related to Mozart.

  2. cvp5306

    I am so glad that someone wrote their blog about this! I have always been interested to see what the results were. I know a lot of my cousins were forced to listen to mozart and other forms of classical music. Personally I believe it does help on some level not only for babies but adults. I still listen to classical music all the time. I don’t think listening to classical music makes you smarter I just believe it gives you a different perspective about certain things. Right now I working on a blog that has to deal with the healing powers of music you should check it out.

  3. Alex Rosencrance

    Another possible variable to consider with this topic would be socioeconomic level. One could argue that the children who listen to classical music such as Mozart or Bach have more educated and possibly wealthier parents, then those who listen to other music genres. Those with more money could hire private tutors or send their kids to better schools, which could result in “smarter kids”. Since the wealthy or well educated are usually the ones who attend the symphony or opera, it seems that socioeconomic level would be a plausible variable to think about.

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