“Mozart Effect” just a myth, according to new study

By Casey Frye, CCNN Writer

music notes
A new study suggests that classical music does not increase IQ scores, like many people believe. That said, mastering a skill does boost the brain.

You’ve probably heard that listening to classical music improves reasoning skills and boosts IQ scores. It’s called the Mozart Effect, and parents around the world have used this theory as a reason to hire a piano teacher for their kids. Well, according to new research from Harvard University, the Mozart Effect is just a big fat myth.

In order to show this, researcher Samuel Mehr from the Harvard School of Education conducted a set of experiments. In the first one, 29 toddlers were divided into two classrooms: one that received musical training and one that recieved visual arts training. The tiny scholars were tested before and after their courses, but instead of measuring IQs, Mehr decided to score their vocabulary skills in a more sensitive test. According to the results, there was no magical boost from the Mozart Effect.

Just to be absolutely sure this was the case, Mehr ran a second experiment with more children, and this time they either received musical training or no instruction at all. Just as before, there was no extra brain power for the kids that received musical training. “There were slight differences in performance between the groups, but none were large enough to be statistically significant,” said Mehr. “Even when we used the finest-grained statistical analyses available to us, the effects just weren’t there.”

So, if the Mozart Effect is just a myth, why does a whopping 80% of the population believe it works? Well, in 1993, a study published in the science journal Nature studied the effects of classical music on the brain. They claimed the Mozart Effect was very real and that children who listen to classical pieces experienced an intelligence increase. Even though studies published shortly thereafter found several flaws, it was too late: the public believed that classical music was the way to go.

Even though this new study shows there’s no such thing as the Mozart Effect, musical training should still be stressed. As Mehr explains, “Every single culture in the world has music, including music for children. Music says something about what it means to be human, and it would be crazy not to teach this to our children.”

Images courtesy of Horia Varlan on Flickr. Image courtesy of Scott Catron on Wikimedia