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I read pop neuroscience books as well as science sections on news sites (e.g. BBC, NY Times) and one of the claims I remember reading was that supposedly listening to Mozart music made infants smarter. Google searches on this topic turned up articles as early as 2007, so the idea has been in circulation for a while, even among mass audiences. Reasons given for the varied from promoting language skills to enhancing neural plasticity. But from a parenting perspective (the one I am interested in), the basic question is

Is the so-called "Mozart effect" a scientifically supported, developmental leg up or a media-fueled "scientific legend"?

In short, does my kid actually gain any advantage?

To answer this, consider the following questions:

Question

Is the Mozart effect a scientifically substantiated fact? That is, does listening to classical music actually make infants smarter and lead to greater intelligence?

I'd like to distinguish this from merely becoming more educated due to studying music. I didn't grow up listening to Mozart and now I compose, so there are clearly many ways to learn music. But the critical claim is, if I take two groups of children and play Mozart for one and not the other, does the Mozart group gain some noticeable enhancement of intelligence?

  • Related: cogsci.stackexchange.com/q/10575/7654 – Stan Shunpike Jul 7 '15 at 19:18
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    Suppose you do find someone referencing an officially published proof that the theory is factual, I'd be interested in examining the control groups to see how they managed to raise 2 sets of children from birth to teen in utter isolation having no other influences outside the music to definitively conclude that the music alone was the source of their intelligence. If you do find that, let me know. I've been wondering about the legalities of such measurements so I can begin my own studies. – Kai Qing Jul 8 '15 at 0:29
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    Your kid will be better off if you put him in a class to learn to play Mozart than if he just listen to it. – the_lotus Jul 8 '15 at 11:17
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Basically it's all marketing wearing a lab coat. Nothing in the research supports a 'Mozart effect'.

The original research used to support the 'Mozart effect' is Music and spatial task performance (Rauscher et al.) which demonstrated a performance improvement:-

  • lasting 10-15 minutes
  • in adults
  • for specific types of spatial-temporal tests
  • general intelligence and cognitive ability remain unaffected

Nothing in the original research relates to children or to any kind of permanent effect. The effects that were observed were not statistically significant.

When repeated by another team in 1999 with a larger group of approximately 120 subjects the improvement in results in the tests was not statistically significant either.

Related experiments were conducted on children but those children were taught to read music and play instruments for 6 months - not just listen passively or as background music. They showed a 30% improvement over other groups of similar children in a spatial-temporal test but no longer term studies were done.

sources:

The Mozart Effect in the Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine

The Mozart Effect: A Closer Look

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