What is the Mozart Effect?
What if listening to 10 minutes of Mozart could increase your IQ? That’s exactly what Frances Raucher and her Californian research team suggested back in 1993. The theory spread like wildfire around the world, leading to much speculation about the so-called Mozart Effect.
The myth comes from the publication of an experiment in American scientific journal Nature. The study required participants to listen to The Sonata for Two Pianos in D Major, K 448 by Mozart. After just 10 minutes, they were better able to solve spatial intelligence tasks which are part of IQ testing.
These findings made headlines all over the globe. Soon Mozart was being played to everyone from pregnant women to newborns babies and rats. Some American states made it compulsory for kindergartens and nurseries to play Mozart to children on a daily basis. Needless to say, the market for Mozart audio products exploded.
But controversy followed as a number of subsequent studies contradicted Rauscher’s findings. A team in the University of Vienna’s psychology department looked at around 3,000 cases across 40 studies. The team’s leader, Jakob Pietschnig, stated that “there is no proof of the Mozart effect”, while reminding everyone that the 1993 study was only carried out on a very small sample size of 36 students.
The reality is whether you’re listening to Mozart, Michael Jackson, Beyonce or Eminem, there’s no real difference. Music we enjoy improves our cognitive faculties because it stimulates increases in our mood and arousal.
Rauscher herself actually later disclaimed the idea that listening to Mozart could somehow make a person smarter. She referred to this as a misconception, underlining that the effect was limited to spatial-temporal tasks involving mental imagery and temporal ordering.