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Mozart Effect: Does Listening to Classical Music Make Us Smarter?

How do you ensure your child grows smarter? This question is likely one of the biggest mysteries for any expecting parent. You probably heard stories where a pregnant mom listens to Mozart or any classical tune out of the hope their infant child will grow smarter. While others think of it as an absurd idea, a 1993 study suggested that making a person listen to classical music, particularly Mozart, can make them more intelligent. This theory is known as the "Mozart effect."

The theory eventually took off, which sparked the interest of the media and the public about the idea that listening to classical music improves brainpower. In fact, the music market witnessed an increase in the sales of classical music products, with parents playing Mozart to their unborn child and toddlers. After all, Mozart was a child prodigy himself, so there might be little hope that his intelligence will somehow rub off on their child.

The belief that music makes children smarter became a modern philosophy in the academe. Parents are pushing their children to take music lessons and play musical instruments to do better in school and get higher grades.

Music-making is repeatedly claimed to significantly impact children’s academic achievement and cognitive skills. But how true is this claim? This article will discuss the truth behind the Mozart effect and how music can truly affect our brain. So before you pop in a CD of classical music, you better understand its real benefits on your child.

The truth behind the Mozart effect

The theory that listening to classical music enhances cognitive ability started in 1993 based on research conducted at the University of California. The experiment showed that the subjects who listened to Mozart’s sonata for ten minutes significantly improved spatial reasoning skills within 10 to 15 minutes.

Shortly after the research came out, more people began buying CDs of classical music. Even the state of Georgia allotted a state budget to distribute free classical CD to families with newborn babies. Since then, the theory gained rapid recognition, especially among U.S. parents. They began playing Mozart or any classical music to their children from conception until they are born. Aside from babies, farmers applied the idea to their dairy farms. They believed that playing Mozart three times each day helps animals produce good milk.

Looking back on the previous study, researchers found a few inconsistencies about the experiment. The study did not use the term “Mozart effect” on the paper and the study did not include children, rather it was conducted among young adult students.

Although the participants who listened to Mozart performed well at spatial tasks, the effect lasted for only fifteen minutes. The author also stressed that the results only apply to spatial-temporal reasonability and not general intelligence. To put it simply, the experiment shows that the “Mozart effect” isn’t going to offer you a lifetime of super-genius ability.

How does classical music affect the brain?

In a recent study in 2014, scientists used network science to study the implications of music on cognitive function and discovered compelling findings. They found out that listening to a single composer or a specific kind of music has no direct effects on cognition. What they found out is that functional brain activity doesn’t depend on a particular acoustical characteristic, rather it relied on whether the person likes or dislikes a song.

To settle the real score, the best music for the brain depends on what type of music we like. Since people have different memories, experiences, and preferences, listening to classical music can make two unique individuals feel significantly different.

Whatever your preferred music genre, its effects on the brain lie in our unique experiences. Although listening to music has a few cognitive enhancements, its effects are short-lived, and it doesn’t make you more intelligent.

In fact, brain arousal doesn’t have to depend on listening to music alone. This means that there are other brain activities to get it more active. These include reading, exercising, writing, and other worthwhile activities to keep your mind going.

The bottom line

So is taking a musical endeavor during a child’s early years the answer to producing a new generation of child geniuses? Our answer is: probably not.

Although it doesn’t hurt to encourage your child to pursue a musical hobby or career, don’t expect that it will dramatically raise their intelligence or grades. There are still some possibilities that music can improve other aspects of our reasoning, but there are still uncertainties with limited evidence about its long-term benefits for human beings. In the end, the brain is mystifying and complex, and it still has a lot of secrets that are yet to uncover.

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