Does Mozart Make Kids Smarter?
What do you think of the Mozart effect, the theory that listening to classical music raises children's IQs and even heals the body? Is there anything to it?
The Mozart effect grew out of a 1993 study from the University of California at Irvine, which showed that listening to Mozart's Sonata for Two Pianos in D Major for ten minutes enhanced spatial reasoning among college kids. That rather esoteric bit of research spawned an industry: Exaggerating claims that go far beyond the findings of the initial research, record companies and entrepreneurs push child development CDs at expectant and new parents who hope something so simple could make their little ones smarter. Hospitals give out tapes of Mozart's music, and pregnant women play CDs to their unborn babies, hoping the effect will reach into the womb. The former governor of Georgia even convinced the record industry to provide free Mozart CDs to every young mother in the state!
Over the years, various researchers have attempted to replicate the original study's findings with little success. Earlier this year, the scientific journal, "Nature," published two new studies disputing the original one -- and concluded that the Mozart effect does little, if anything, to boost IQ. The researchers who conducted the original study agree their findings were completely misinterpreted. In the first place, the study was conducted with college students, not infants. In the second, the effects lasted only ten minutes, not a lifetime! Frances Rauscher, a researcher from the original study, told CNN it's a "giant leap to think that if music has a short-term effect on college students that it will produce smarter chldren... The whole thing has really gotten out of hand."
Whether or not the Mozart effect exists, there's little doubt that listening to music is good for you. Melodious classical music approximates the rhythm of the resting heart (70 beats per minute) and can actually slow a heart beating too fast. And we all know that music influences our moods -- it can help us relax and generate positive emotions. As far as Mozart is concerned, after all these many years, his music remains timeless, beautiful, and inspirational. Listening may not pay off in higher IQs and SAT scores, but if kids (and adults) find pleasure and learn to appreciate great music, they are already way ahead.