Human Intelligence

Can listening to Mozart make you smarter?
Answered by Lori Cuthbert and Curiosity
  • Lori Cuthbert

    Lori Cuthbert

  • Curiosity

    Curiosity

  1. Lori Cuthbert Editor-in-Chief, Discovery News
    It’s never been proven that listening to Mozart can make you generally more intelligent. Changes in the brain have been measured, though, after research subjects listened to Mozart Sonatas for 10 minutes, changes that mostly affect spatial reasoning. The changes don’t last for more than about 12 minutes, and some scientists have had trouble reproducing the results of the first study on the effect of Mozart on the brain, published by Francis H. Rauscher in 1993 in the journal Nature. In other studies, preschoolers who got piano lessons for six months did have a 30 percent better handle than other kids their age on spatial–temporal reasoning.

    Spatial-temporal reasoning is the ability to manipulate patterns in your mind as they change over a given period. Whether babies who hear classical music in utero turn out to be smarter than babies who don’t is still unclear. But since fetuses can hear after about five months, it’s not a bad thing to play them music.

    I played in a band up until I gave birth to my son, and he’s very musical and quite bright. Did my guitar playing serenade him to be more intelligent than other kids his age? There’s no way to tell … yet.

    More answers from Lori Cuthbert »

  2. In 1993, researchers famously claimed that listening to Mozart could improve intelligence; they had played the composer for college students for 10 minutes before the students took an IQ test, and the students went on to score 8 to 9 points higher on the exam. The researchers hypothesized that certain areas of the brain, particularly those associated with spatial-temporal intelligence, were activated by complex classical music. As a result, parents were urged to play Mozart for their newborn children. In 2010, however, different researchers published a more definitive study showing that the so-called "Mozart effect" is a myth. This recent study used a larger group of subjects than the original study, which only used 36 students. Those researchers said that parents needn't throw their Mozart CDs away -- music does indeed stimulate the brain -- but they shouldn't be looking for huge jumps in IQ scores.

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