Mozart Effect Debunked

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Mozart Effect Debunked

Post by thrice » Tue Jun 29, 2010 7:46 am

Politics Daily:

Pregnant women everywhere can pull the headset away from their bellies. A thorough review of research has debunked the idea that classical music can boost the intelligence of newborns or, for that matter, pretty much anybody.

The article, "Mozart Effect, Schmozart Effect," analyzed 40 studies completed during the last 15 years. The conclusion? There's absolutely no evidence to suggest that classical music will lead to superior smarts.

That's not exactly news to most in the scientific community, which has largely dismissed the popularized version of the theory. But how did a single research paper on spatial reasoning turn into a widespread thesis on the link between instrumentals and intelligence? Surge Desk breaks it down.

What, exactly, is "The Mozart Effect"?

It's probably not what you think. In 1993, psychologist Francis Rauscher did a small experiment on 36 college students. The students listened to either a Mozart song, a monotone voice or silence, and then completed a test of spatial reasoning.

Those who listened to Mozart scored higher, leading Rauscher to conclude that the tune mildly improved spatial reasoning -- but that the effect wore off after 10 or 15 minutes.

"It's very important to note that we did not find effects for general intelligence," she told NPR, "just for this one aspect of intelligence. It's a small gain and it doesn't last very long."

Why did it become so popular?

Soon after her study, Rauscher published a one-page paper on the experiment in the journal Nature.

The Associated Press picked it up, and from there, a myth was born. Headlines like "Mozart Makes You Smart" were enough to transform the actual conclusion of the small study into something a little more sensational.

"I mean we walked into Virgin Records one day and there was a whole kiosk of Mozart music and quotations from our paper," Rauscher said.

How does classical music really affect the brain?

Although science has been unable to demonstrate a connection between classical music and general intelligence, researchers have discovered benefits to music more generally.

Because tunes stimulate the brain, they're thought to boost cognitive capacity. And, for a double dose of mind enhancement, use music as a workout accompaniment -- the combination of music and exercise is thought to improve cognition even more.

Perhaps the most obvious factor here is being ignored- rhythm. In my personal experience, the human mind seems to seek repetitive patterns and find some comfort in them. I find myself intensely disliking modern jazz music- not because the musicians are not skilled, or parts of it pleasureable- but because the free form style seems chaotic and sometimes frantic, and is disturbing to me rather than entertaining. My mind wants to settle into a recognizable rhythm, and my professional skills seem to revolve around pattern recognition to a high degree.
On a similar note, I find that, at least temporarily, when I study computer science, I find a temporary "hangover" effect that my thinking patterns become more organized and linear, as opposed to intuitive and emotional. Distracting and confusing elements fall away, and what is left is a barebones, yes/no decision tree. The effect doesn't last, but it's real. Regardless of the overhype of the "Mozart Effect", there's no doubt that purposeful external stimulus can profoundly change your mood and thought processes.
The daily impact of such decision approaches can be dramatic. I was talking with my daughter last night, and she recalled a man she knows who frames every discussion of her life with remarks about how a decision made money for her or did not. A literal "yes/no" decision tree that a computer program would execute. Intuitive/emotional people are baffled at how someone can live their life in such a one-dimensional manner of making decisions. Logically driven thinkers cannot understand how someone could not.

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