The Mozart Effect
Ever since human intelligence has been a factor for survival, people have been trying to think of new, innovative ways to increase their mental capabilities. In the past, people have taken pills, prepared home-made concoctions, and have even shaven their heads to clear their minds. Even now, new ideas, such as magnetic mattresses for better blood circulation to the brain, are patented and sold promising mental wellness and stability – and making money for the inventor. When scientists find something that enhances intelligence the general public is interested.
This is perhaps why a small study out of the University of California, Irvine procured so much attention. In 1993 Gordon Shaw, a physicist, and Frances Rauscher, a former concert cellist and an expert on cognitive development, studied the effects the Mozart Sonata for Two Pianos in D Major had on a few dozen college students. They performed this study to see whether "brief exposure to certain music could increase a cognitive ability" (3). They study took thirty-six college students and divided them up into three groups. Each group spent ten minutes listening to different sounds: the first group listened to the afore mentioned Mozart sonata, the second group listened to a tape of relaxation instructions and the third group sat in silence. Directly following these ten minutes the students were tested on spatial/temporal reasoning (more specifically the Stanford-Binet Test). Simply put, the "subject has to imagine that a single sheet of paper has been folded several times and then various cut-outs are made with scissors" (3). The object for the students is to correctly guess the pattern of cut-outs if the paper were unfolded.
In the end, the scores of the group that was listening to Mozart were significantly higher then those of the other two groups. The Mozart group had an average eight to nine points higher when the tests were translated into spatial IQ scores. They also found, however, that this affect lasted for only ten to fifteen minutes. The scientists concluded that the "benefits to special/temporal reasoning would require complex rather than repetitive music," however, did not go as far as to say that this music must be that of Mozart. They also made it clear that these findings were indeed isolated to the special/temporal realm and did not translate to other areas of intelligence such as verbal reasoning or short-term memory.
This was indeed a fairly informal study, performed on a mere thirty-six people – a small group from which to make "less wrong" conclusions based on observations. This, however, did not seem to matter to the general public. In 1993, when this study was written up in Nature both the media and the general population couldn't believe it. This was an easy, inexpensive way to increase your intelligence; and it was "proven". The concept exploded. Soon there were products on the market. CDs with titles like "Mozart for Meditaion" and...