KIDS
May 29, 2010

Mozart and Smarts? Unlikely, Study Says

There’s little evidence that exposing your child to Mozart will actually improve his or her intelligence, but it can't hurt.

According to a large review study in the May 2010 issue of the journal Intelligence, exposing your child to the music of Mozart won’t make him any smarter. The research was carried out, fittingly, by a team at the University of Vienna.

Comparing children who had listened to Mozart’s sonata KV 448 to those who were exposed to a different stimulus or to none at all, the team found only a small difference between the groups of participants in their performances on spatial tasks.

The authors, led by Jakob Pietschnig, say that theirs is “the so far largest, most comprehensive, and up-to-date meta-analysis” of the phenomenon that had originally been reported in the 1993 issue of Nature. The Nature study had sparked huge interest among researchers, the media, and the public, and according to Pietschnig and his team, lead to the “development of a commercial industry, selling dozens of different records, tapes, and CDs of Mozart music, all of them supposed to have a positive impact on children's intelligence.” But this original study did not actually report a link between Mozart and overall intelligence – it only reported that after listening to a movement, children’s scores on standardized spatial ability tests were slightly higher.

The current study aimed to replicate the results of the original study, which led to many earlier – and mostly unsuccessful – attempts to do the same. The researchers of the current study analyzed the results of 40 past studies devoted to the same question, which all together included over 3,000 young participants. Comparing children who had listened to Mozart’s sonata KV 448 to those who were exposed to a different stimulus or to none at all, the team found only a small difference between the groups of participants in their performances on spatial tasks.

The authors write that “[i]n summary, this study shows that there is little support for a Mozart effect considering the cumulative empirical evidence. The large effect demonstrated in the initial publication faded away as more research was done on this subject.”

Pietschnig comments in a news release from the University: “I recommend listening to Mozart to everyone, but it will not meet expectations of boosting cognitive abilities.” So don’t turn off the Mozart, or other music in the house, but do be aware that it probably won’t have the effect on your child’s cognitive development that had been so touted in the past.

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