The Mozart Effect

Music is known to positively impact our brains in various other ways – in 7th grade I went to sleep listening to Jazz music every night believing it would make me smarter – I’m not kidding. Growing up, I’ve always wondered if listening to music positively or negatively impacted our brain functions.  So, I decided to dig deeper, and thus, I found the Mozart effect.



The Mozart Effect was proposed in 1993 by Rauscher et al, suggesting that listening to Mozart prior to testing increased reasoning ability in college students.

The Original Study

In this study, Frances Rauscher, Katherine Ky, and Gordon Shaw assigned 36 University of California Irvine students to one of three different groups: one listened to Mozart K488, another listened to a relaxation tape, and the third spent their time in silence. Each group underwent their testing for 10 minutes.

Hypothesis: The presence of music will impact the student’s cognitive performance.

Causation: Listening to Mozart will increase students testing on spacial IQ

Reverse Causation: Increased spacial IQ will lead students to listen to Mozart

  • Not applicable – reverse causation ruled out

Confounding Third Variables:

  • How were groups allotted? Randomly? Could certain students already be inclined to perform better or were they somewhat even academically speaking?
  • The subjects were also only tested on a single cognitive task, this could have an impact on the results if they had been asked to perform a different test.


The Results

Following the 10 minutes, each group underwent a spacial IQ test. In this test, subjects had to mentally unfold a piece of paper and pick out which final shape the paper would be. The study found that students who had listened to Mozart tested abut 8-9 point increase, opposed to the students in the other two groups.

Simple, right? Now we can conclude that maybe we should listen to Mozart before a test or a study session. Ah, but not so fast. Though the researchers’ findings DID support their hypothesis, they received a bit of scrutiny from the outside world. Several studies have provided various outcomes, meaning the results could potentially be a false positive.


The Meta-Analysis

Luckily for us, the Mozart Effect has become a widespread topic in the scientific world. Typically once a study become widespread, the opportunity for a meta-analysis comes forth. Christopher Chabris published a meta-analysis of 16 different studies with different conclusions of the Mozart Effect. Finding that in the grand scheme of things, listening to Mozart may not increase reasoning or intelligence in every aspect, though it definitely could have an impact on spacial tasks. This essentially would explain why subjects seemed to have an easier time with the mental paper unfolding, however, if tested on different stimulations, the results did not always support the hypothesis.

My Conclusion

After finding this research, I do not think I will resort to Mozart in belief that it will be the definite solution to my academic problems, but it may boost my cognitive abilities in minor ways – so why not put it on in the background. 🙂



Jenkins, J. S. “The Mozart Effect.” Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine. The Royal Society of Medicine, Apr. 2001. Web. 29 Nov. 2016.

Lerch, Donna. “The Mozart Effect: A Closer Look.” The Mozart Effect: A Closer Look. N.p., 2000. Web. 29 Nov. 2016.

Chabris, Christopher. “Prelude or Requiem for the /`Mozart Effect … – Nature.” Nature. N.p., 26 Aug. 1999. Web. 29 Nov. 2016.



2 thoughts on “The Mozart Effect

  1. Sabrina Chan

    It’s a shame that music can’t make me smarter–guess I’ll have to rely on study and practice.

    It’s great that you included so much material from class in your blog post. This post displays the importance of meta-analysis! If you had posted that study alone, I would have barely been skeptical of the findings. (Although that study could have used a larger pool of participants. 36 simply isn’t enough.)

    Even if music can’t make me smarter overnight, it still has benefits worth appreciating. Studies show that music improves mental health in a variety of ways, ranging from less anxiety to more dopamine being released. You can read about that here! So even though The Mozart Effect doesn’t seem legitimate, I’ll still happily be jamming to Kanye.

  2. lkv5058

    I have heard a little about this theory but never had a good idea of the legitimacy or reasoning until reading this article. I thought your analysis was very insightful and I learned quite a bit. I would be interested to know if music could have a negative effect. Could rap or other music genres actually hurt your IQ? Overall, I don’t think there is compelling enough evidence to convince me to fall asleep to Mozart every night, but new studies could change my mind. Thanks for sharing!

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