Everyone has at least heard about the Mozart effect. It’s that theory people who listen to Mozart’s music are temporarily better at spatial reasoning. As a result, people have taken these studies and applied them to babies, reasoning that this approach would be very helpful with their developing minds. It makes sense that classical music would affect your baby’s growth and development for the better.
But we wonder just how effective the Mozart effect actually is. Can classical music actually help babies become smarter?
Mozart and the Human Brain
Back in the 90s there was a huge media storm surrounding a couple of studies that linked classical music, specifically Mozart’s music, to higher cognitive brain functions. The first study was published in 1991 by French researcher Dr. Alfred A. Tomatis in his book “Why Mozart?” He wanted to study the effects of music’s healing properties and development on the human brain.
In 1993, his study was further expanded by three researchers: Rauscher, Shaw, & Ky. They wanted to specifically study the effect of Mozart’s music on spatial reasoning. With their test group of college students, they discovered that the effects did enhance their spatial reasoning, but only for a maximum of 15 minutes.
There were sound positive results, just not specifically on children, IQ, and long-term growth.
The Mozart Effect
The media caught on to the research and pretty much ran with it, and gave the research great amount of attention for the rest of the 90s. Articles in subsequent years kept on touting how classical music increased people’s IQ’s, despite the fact that the studies never attempted to correlate Mozart’s music with IQ. Like a decade-long game of Telephone, the story grew and changed beyond the original findings.
In 1997, writer Don Campbell published “The Mozart Effect: Tapping the Power of Music to Heal the Body, Strengthen the Mind, and Unlock the Creative Spirit”. In it, he reiterated the previous theories by the researchers albeit incorrectly attributed IQ instead of spatial reasoning, and posited that, logically, it would help in a child’s mental development.
This caused a major frenzy nationwide. In 1998, Georgia governor Zell Miller famously proposed $105,000 of the state’s budget would be devoted to providing classical music CDs to children. Products began showing up on shelves that took advantage of this wave of interest, notably Baby Einstein’s Baby Mozart VHS.
So Are Babies Better Off?
Now that it’s decades later, we should theoretically be seeing much smarter babies, right? The unfortunate thing is that most of the benefits were simply overblown by the media, and by some companies. No scientific study has ever shown a correlation between listening to music, and IQ growth.
There are some modern studies that do show that music has an impact on human development in terms of how we process that sort of stimulus to open up our minds. It’s a reason why we listen to music while working, or to gain inspiration creatively.
It was also discovered that though listening to complex music was temporarily beneficial, learning how to play a musical instrument was definitely effective in increasing IQ. The increase averaged roughly three points, which can be significant.
In conclusion, introducing your baby to Mozart’s music won’t really turn them into a genius, but perhaps they’ll gain an appreciation for the classical giant. And to really make them shine, have them learn the piano so they can play Mozart on their own
What’s your take on Mozart’s music on babies?