Ever since a 1993 University of California, Irvine study was released indicating the positive effects of listening to classical composer Mozart, the so-called “Mozart Effect" has been in question.
Initial research indicated that listening to Mozart’s music produced a short-term improvement in the performance of certain mental tasks known as spatial-temporal reasoning. While the researchers never claimed that listening to Mozart’s music makes people “smarter," once the research was publicized, many took it to mean just that.
The Mozart Effect is said to increase mental acuity and activate areas of the brain associated with spatial reasoning. These results led many to believe that listening to this music could enhance their academic and professional abilities. This article will discuss what the Mozart Effect is and what it’s purported to do as well as explore critics’ views of the phenomenon.
When the Mozart Effect was publicized, many people wondered what it was about Mozart’s music, specifically, that was so beneficial. In their initial research, researchers discovered that Mozart’s K448 sonata was effective at stimulating brain function. Furthermore, this function was markedly increased when compared to that of individuals in the control groups, who were listening either to other stimuli or silence.
Additionally, other research indicated that listening to the works of Mozart had a particularly beneficial effect on children with disorders such as ADHD and autism. One researcher noted that up to 43 of the world's largest companies provide Mozart’s music to their employees in hopes of increasing productivity and focus.
For example, major corporations such as DuPont and IBM use the works of Mozart in efforts to increase retention of new training material and concepts. For DuPont in particular, the use of this music program in one department led to a reduction in training time by 50 percent.
Mozart music recorded at the appropriate tempo has been shown to activate the left and right sides of the brain. This may maximize students’ ability to learn and retain information. Children exposed to Mozart may improve their reading comprehension overall.
However, the original study involving college students at the University of California, Irvine indicated that test scores involving only spatial-temporal reasoning were increased immediately after listening to the works of Mozart. It should be noted that these results could only be produced for up to 15 minutes after listening.
Criticism of the Mozart Effect
In spite of the widespread popularity of the Mozart Effect, subsequent research on the relationship between reasoning and music has failed to produce consistent results. Part of the reason for this may be that it’s somewhat difficult to conduct well-controlled studies.
This is because the reactions of those exposed to Mozart’s music must be measured over long periods of time to realize the full effect. Ideally, cognitive changes would be sustained long-term, rather than for just a few minutes after listening to the music.
Research has also been hampered by the fact that the fact that many in the scientific community have questioned the validity of the original study. As a result, it is harder to secure stipends and research funding to further understand how Mozart’s music impacts brain functioning.
Many of these studies have focused solely on short-term listening with just one Mozart sonata. This is insufficient for gaining a clear picture of the long-term effects.
Despite the criticism, it should be pointed out that the original researchers never claimed that listening to Mozart music makes people more intelligent. They simply presented their research findings and stated that listening to Mozart had a temporary effect on spatial-temporal intelligence among college students.
Critics believe that the media is partially to blame for over-hyping the Mozart Effect and its impact on spatial reasoning. Researchers who sought to refute the findings indicated that there was no real benefit to listening to Mozart’s music other than pure enjoyment. Some researchers even indicated that they could find no effect whatsoever, let alone any brain-enhancing outcomes.
However, listening to the music of Mozart during daily activities can still have significant benefits, even if they are not quantified by scientific experiments. Additionally, listening to other classical composers, such as Handel and Bach, can have similar positive effects.
Listening to Mozart firsthand is the best way to see if it will help you or your child gain mental clarity and improve retention. The Mozart Effect has a dedicated website that offers information on the research findings, musical resources, and other helpful information that will help you determine for yourself if the Mozart Effect can work for you.