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Entertaining Your Brain: Guide To The Mozart Effect

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Portrait of Mozart

Legendary composer Johannes Chrysostom Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart was born January 27, 1756 to Leopold and Anna Maria Mozart. His father was also a composer, so naturally Wolfgang was exposed to music and musical instruments at a young age. Throughout his short life he composed over 600 works including 105 orchestral pieces, seven operas, seventy-seven works of chamber music, and four choral pieces. He died of rheumatic fever December 5, 1791 at the age of 35.

What is the Mozart Effect?

Dr. Alfred A. Tomatis, a specialist in otolaryngology, was known for his studies on the recognition of sounds in people with various deficiencies. In 1991, a phenomenon was reported in his book Pourquoi Mozart. He was using Mozart�۪s music as a stimulus during his therapy sessions. Since then, the sensation has expanded to the belief that exposure to Mozart�۪s music can boost IQ.

How Mozart Affects the Brain

Smart Kid with Glasses Thinking

The basis of the Mozart Effect is spatial reasoning. Studies have shown that spatial IQ scores are higher for test takers after they listen to Mozart�۪s music than they are if they listen to other music, white noise, or nothing at all. The reasoning isn�۪t magical, but rather scientific. When listening to music, a person�۪s ���enjoyment arousal�۝ is sparked and they become more relaxed with less interference between their brain and the activities at hand. Therefore, when a group was tested and received an 8-9 point higher grade on an IQ test, it didn�۪t mean their intelligence had changed, merely their focus. The tests were furthered by exposing pregnant rats to the same stimuli. When the babies were born, they were tested with a maze. Once again, the Mozart-listeners performed better than the other control groups.

The results of Mozart Effect tests are rarely significant. Early tests done in 1993 by psychologist Frances Rauscher merely showed that subjects were more precise at paper folding and cutting. Also, the effects only lasted approximately ten to fifteen minutes. However, Alex Ross of the New York Times published that the music made people smarter. Thus began a worldwide misconception. Of course, the Mozart Effect immediately garnered support from record companies. They were spending no money on promotion and consumers were buying their music. Additionally, limited royalty fees had to be paid because Mozart is long deceased.

Effects of the Effect

The level of belief in the Mozart Effect varies. Some discredit that it exists at all citing a lack of significant scientific evidence. Alternately, some consider it fact. In 1998, Governor Zell Miller of Georgia passed a $105,000 bill to distribute free compact discs featuring Mozart�۪s music to newborn children. Inspired by Miller, Florida has made it a requirement to have state-funded day care centers play classical music.

Problems with the Mozart Effect

The Mozart Effect isn�۪t a fact, but a theory that is still being developed upon. There is little that has been proven as of yet and results to tests are inconsistent. Not all studies have found that there is a great enough difference in IQ test results to draw any conclusion. Also, since the print media and record companies give different stories than scientists, people discontent with the mixed information discredit the effect exists entirely calling it a marketing ploy.

Resources & Links

There is an effect that expands spatial memory for ten to fifteen minutes after listening to Mozart. It may prove beneficial for students to listen to his music in their headphones before a test. However, there is no scientific evidence that there are any long-term effects. More testing needs to be done before more of this young, twenty year-old theory can be exposed.

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