The Mozart Effect: Is it Real?

Psychiatry_Psychology.jpgOver the weekend, I traveled into the city to see the Mozart’s Don Giovanni, an opera based on the legend of Don Juan. I don’t get a chance to see much performance art, but since a friend with an extra ticket had invited me along for free, I decided that it would be a nice experience. Besides, if there were any truth at all to the Mozart Effect theory, what better way to spend a Sunday afternoon than raising my I.Q. score a few points?

The Mozart Effect is a popular notion that listening to classical music makes kids smarter. The theory inspired Georgia governor Zell Miller in 1998 to propose that $105,000 each year be set aside in the state budget to provide every native born Georgian child with classical music tape or CD. Of course the University of Wisconsin psychologist Frances H. Rauscher, and Gordon Shaw, a physicist at the University of California at Irvine, never claimed in their 1993 landmark paper that Mozart makes children smarter, rather they asserted that his music improved mental imagery and temporal ordering abilities. The subsequent increase in spatial reasoning scores on the Stanford-Binet IQ probably influenced the popular notion that the Mozart Effect is connected to intelligence. Since spatial ability includes spatial perception, spatial construction, spatial memory and spatial attention, one cannot measure it as a one-dimensional construct.

My mental rotation ability for instance, came in pretty handy on the day of the opera. I mentally rotated three-dimensional maps of the huge performance hall to find my seat, and performed multi-step manipulations of figural information at the snack bar during intermission. Still, after the opera I cannot claim that I felt any better prepared to become a geometry teacher, engineer, architect or city planner. I will say however that, uncharacteristically, I did not get lost on the way home.

So what do you think: Is the Mozart Effect real?

Tony Brown, BA, EMT

Tony Brown, BA, EMT, graduated cum laude from Harvard University. He served as an EMT in the US Army stationed in Germany.
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