Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Mozart's Effect

“The Mozart Effect”: An Example of the Scientific Method in Operation
            Baby and child geniuses. We all see them youtube, on TV, or in other parts of the media showing off their big talents and brain skills in completing puzzles, retaining and understanding knowledge of extensive subjects, etc. Nowadays, with ideas such as these within the media, some parents, and even future parents, are trying to figure out ways to make their child “gifted”. One of the ways parents tend to do, besides provide healthy nutrition and care for their child, is to expose them to classical music. In today’s market, there are hundreds of companies targeting customers in the lure and promise that their child will develop an intellectual, memory, and creative development if they listen to their CDs or watch the BluRays or DVDs. In the midst of the modernity of the 21st century there are now even Ipad and Iphone applications that are specialized to help the child be exposed to classical music in the hopes that they will become smarter. This idea is known as the “Mozart Effect”. The question at issue is does this "Mozart Effect" actually represented by scientific reasoning and the scientific method, or is it just a false theory? “The Mozart Effect” is an example of pseudoscience.
             One way that pseudoscience is different from regular science is that pseudoscience does not follow the scientific process. One of the biggest aspects of the science process, discussed in Chapter 1 of our textbook, Scientific Perspectives on Pseudoscience and the Paranormal, is that scientists must be able to replicate the results or conclusions of studies done by other fellow scientists. The original finding of the Mozart Effectm, a study done by Rauscher, Shaw, and Ky back in 1993 reported that students showed “an increase on spatial reasoning scores of about 8 to 9 IQ points from substest of the Stanford-Binet Scale of Intelligence after listening to a Mozart piano sonata relative to listening to a relaxation tape or silence”
            Although this scientific experiment was done in a controlled environment, this study was made famous due to assumptions. The first mistake was to see that correlation indicates causation, meaning that if two objects, actions, or things are related to each other, i.e., correlated, than it is reason to say that they cause one another. This is not necessarily true.  For example, what if one day I decide to get yummy hot chocolate from Dunkin Donuts.  I go home, and scarf it down in the cold weather. Later, I get severely sick and have a stomach virus. Is it safe to say that the hot chocolate caused me to become sick? Not necessarily.  I later read that other individuals have also gotten sick due to this infamous hot chocolate. Just because I drank the hot chocolate, and others as well, does it really mean that is the only cause to my, as well as others’ sickness? Probably not. I would have eaten and drank a lot of other things that day that could have also been part of my diet that could have also gotten me sick. Thus, correlation does not indicate causation. We often also use this mistake in health-related studies. Often there are health unkies who drink excess protein shakes and vegetable juices under the assumption that it will lower their chances of cancer, etc. Most of these studies are correlational studies, not causational. Thus, correlation and causation implies false hope. If we constantly make correlations the cause of other items than our world would not have the open-mindedness that we have in today's society. Think about it! What if every court case in America immediately assumed that correleation indicates causation. Many more individuals would probably be in jail for being at a scene of a crime- i.e. correlated to the crime scene, but did not cause it. Correlation and causation play a big role in our everyday society.
       A second indicator is that people made this one case famous without replicating it for it’s reliability. This goes against the concept of scientitific reliability. That is, if a scientist gets those same results again and again, than it can be made true. Ideally, it should be other scientists that are able to replicate another individual's study and get the same results,, than the study can be considered true. For example, let us take the concept of gravity. Millions of scientists around the world have proven that gravity does exist- i.e. there are studies out there that makes gravity a plausible scienttfiic theory.
             Going back to our study,  In 1995, when other individuals such as Cartsens and his colleagues decided to replicate the Mozart Effect, they found that there was no difference in performance on a Minnesota Paper Form Board Test between those who had listened to Mozart before (the experimental group), than those who meditated in silence (the control group). Thus the Mozart Effect appeared to not have an effect on these children. Another scientist, by the name of Newman, studied with his colleagues a group of students who either listened to a Mozart sonata, a relaxation tape, or sat in silence and then later were tested on questions from the Ravens  Progressive Matricies. Newman also found no Mozart effect. Steele, Bass, and Crook (1999) replicated Raucher’s experiment and came up with the same similarities as Cartsens and Newman- the Mozart Effect, indeed did not work.
            So then why the hype? In other words, why do people still stick with this point of view that the Mozart Effect works when it does not? A large part of it comes from the market and media trying to sell products. Every parent wants a child to succeed in life and many will do whatever it takes to help their child reach the potentional they see fit. So, markets often manipulate studies and make false claims in the hopes that parents will buy these CDs, DVDs, etc. so that they make a profit. Even famous companies such as Disney market on the Mozart Effect in the hopes to get better media ratings, such as with their show Little Einsteins in which cartoon characters play musical instruments and classical music while your child listens and engages in their activities.
            Some parents, although learning and acknowledge that the Mozart Effect still has to be tested, continue to buy into these items. Perhaps it is a sense of hope and faith that their child will become a genius and get them famous that keeps parents constantly buying more “intellectually stimulating music.” One thing is for certain though: although the Mozart Effect may not truly exist, some children do have a positive impact while listening to music. Such as this one:

Lawson, Timothy J. "Chapter 2.4 "The Mozart Effect"" Scientific Perspectives on Pseudoscience and the Paranormal: Readings for General Psychology. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson, 2007. 39-45


  1. Great post, and what a funny video!

  2. I found your post to be very interesting. I am a preschool teacher at a local daycare and although like you said the Mozart Effect may just be for markets to manipulate studies and make false accusations and assumptions, I have found that playing classical music sometimes soothes the children. Each child is required to either rest or sleep for a duration of time and we too choose to play classical music. For some reason we have found it to calm down the children after a busy morning. The video of this baby is absolutely adorable and I have found this same expression with my students as well.

  3. Good post! I have three sisters and they all have kids. Although classical music may not increase a child's intelligence it does seem to calm them, atleast in the car. They also may have just enjoyed the car ride, but either way they were quiet for a while!

  4. Great post and presentation in class! I love the video with the baby in the car. I know that music is good for calming children or getting them to be more active but its hilarious that they have marketed the study to children when it was done on college students.