May 31, 2010

Listening to Mozart does not make you smart

It's a shame that it took us 17 years to put the "Mozart makes you smart" meme to rest. I wonder how much money in research grants was wasted over the years (40 studies!) on the question. So, a big thanks to Pietschnig, Voracek, and Formann for debunking the Mozart-effect theory. I predict that the theory will -unfortunately- survive in popular culture, for a long time to come; but if it leads to people learning to enjoy good music, it might be worth it.

Intelligence doi:10.1016/j.intell.2010.03.001

Mozart effect–Shmozart effect: A meta-analysis

Jakob Pietschnig et al.

The transient enhancement of performance on spatial tasks in standardized tests after exposure to the first movement “allegro con spirito” of the Mozart sonata for two pianos in D major (KV 448) is referred to as the Mozart effect since its first observation by Rauscher, Shaw, and Ky (1993). These findings turned out to be amazingly hard to replicate, thus leading to an abundance of conflicting results. Sixteen years after initial publication we conduct the so far largest, most comprehensive, and up-to-date meta-analysis (nearly 40 studies, over 3000 subjects), including a diversity of unpublished research papers to finally clarify the scientific record about whether or not a specific Mozart effect exists. We could show that the overall estimated effect is small in size (d = 0.37, 95% CI [0.23, 0.52]) for samples exposed to the Mozart sonata KV 448 and samples that had been exposed to a non-musical stimulus or no stimulus at all preceding spatial task performance. Additionally, calculation of effect sizes for samples exposed to any other musical stimulus and samples exposed to a non-musical stimulus or no stimulus at all yielded effects similar in strength (d = 0.38, 95% CI [0.13, 0.63]), whereas there was a negligible effect between the two music conditions (d = 0.15, 95% CI [0.02, 0.28]). Furthermore, formal tests yielded evidence for confounding publication bias, requiring downward correction of effects. The central finding of the present paper however, is certainly the noticeably higher overall effect in studies performed by Rauscher and colleagues than in studies performed by other researchers, indicating systematically moderating effects of lab affiliation. On the whole, there is little evidence left for a specific, performance-enhancing Mozart effect.



ashraf said...

Mozart dont make you smarter but it's a very good music and that is enough.

Fanty said...

What a pitty.

Wonder if its the same with the claim, that some languages make you smart (Japanese or German for example)

Years back there was such a claim, with the try to explain it with how complicated and hard to learn a language is.

Complicated and hard to learn languages (Japanese, Chinese, German...) would make you smart and simple, easy to learn languages (English for example)would make you stupid.

mjk said...

How about Brahms? I smell a new 20-year research agenda...

Marnie said...

Thank God!

At the height of the Baby Mozart, Baby Einstein craze, I had to buy myself a book called "Einstein never used Flashcards."

LaPingvino said...

Daniel: about languages, it is different in this regard that to learn languages, you have to work hard, and this sure has effect.

And by the way, English is not an easy language neither Japanese, Chinese or German extremely hard.

Dienekes said...

How about Brahms?

The only way I can think of parents using him is as a threat "Eat your vegetables, or I'll make you listen to Brahms".

Anonymous said...

I think it's the inverse one: most intelligent people listen to Mozart and the most complex music.
I have read a comment of a boy on you tuba about an aria of Mozart. He wrote: it seems beautiful, but has too much notes.
I believe this explains every thing.