Sunday, November 2, 2008

More Mozart Effect

Fact or Fiction?: Babies Exposed to Classical Music End Up Smarter By Nikhil Swaminathan Scientific American (2007, September 13)
Retrieved 2 November 2008

This article essentially debunks the "Mozart effect" unwittingly spawned by psychologist Frances Rauscher's study (and following paper) involving thirty-six college students who listened to either "ten minutes of a Mozart sonata in D-major, a relaxation track or silence before performing several spatial reasoning tasks". Students who had listened to Mozart showed improvement in one of the tests.

Rauscher herself remains puzzled as to how her research was taken so out of context as to be used to promote not only commercial products aimed at creating smarter babies through listening to classical music but to prompt a Georgia governor to mandate that mothers of newborns in the state be given classical music CDs.

There have been, of course, further studies indicating that there is little to no evidence that children who listen to classical music will see an improvement in cognitive abilities.

The interesting part of this article is that Rauscher "advocates putting an instrument into the hands of a youngster to raise intelligence", citing a 1997 University of California study that found that students who had been involved in musical pursuit tested higher on SATs and reading proficiency exams than those who had not.

We covered Rauscher's study and de-bunking studies in class but I wanted to review this article simply for the reaction from Rauscher herself who articulates the problem with extrapolating results from a paper-folding task for college students and applying them to general intelligence in children.

Also, the deliberate mis-interpretation and questionable marketing of Rauscher's study raises a few other questions:
Are we as parents so desperate to ensure the success of our children that we are willing to believe anything to be true if its couched in scientific terms, even when it's presented to us in a so obviously over-marketed form?
Does the huge success of such products as Baby Einstein reflect a disturbing trend of parents guiltless-ly excusing themselves from active involvement in the play and education of their children by turning on an 'educational DVD'?

by Shannon Coates


Lee said...

Thank you for posting this Shannon. In light of Glenn Schellenberg's work this is certainly connected and worth looking at. You raise a very good point - with our current hyper-parenting, parents are grasping at every possibility for giving their kids the advantage - especially ones that are easy like this. But at the same time, their is some evidence that stimulation does something.


s@bd said...

but is that 'something' significant or long-lasting enough to be worth the hoopla?