The Mozart Effect

Can listening to Mozart really improve your child's IQ?

I got the music because I read that the beats of Mozart coincide with the heartbeat of the foetus. So it makes the child intelligent.    
Shradha Sarogi, parent

The Mozart Effect suggests that your child can increase their intelligence by listening to Mozart's music. It claims to have the backing of scientific research and has generated a vast literature. It sounds like a wonderful idea. However, it's not that simple.

    There's no evidence that just listening to music has any effect at all.    
    Dr. Alexandra Lamont, University of Keele

In 1993 at the University of California, physicist Gordon Shaw and Francis Rauscher, an expert on cognitive development, played the first ten minutes of the Mozart Sonata for Two Pianos in D Major to a group of college students. The result, they found, was a temporary increase in the students' spatial-temporal reasoning, for about ten minutes. The Mozart Effect was born.

Put simply, spatial-temporal reasoning is the ability to visualise something in space that unfolds over time. Examples are: estimating how a piece of paper will look unfolded, or reading a map.

In America, the notion has taken hold as parents have leapt at the opportunity to increase their child's intelligence with something as wholesome as classical music.

In Georgia, in 1998, the Governor, Zell Miller allocated £105,000 for the creation of Build Your Baby's Brain Through the Power of Music, an album of classical music on CD and tape distributed to hospitals as a gift to new mothers.

But some experts are sceptical. Dr Alexandra Lamont, Lecturer in Psychology at Keele University, says: "It's only ever been looked at in adults, but all the people who jumped on it have tried to say, 'Ooh we should do it with kids, we should do it with babies, we should do it with unborn babies.' There's no evidence that just listening to music, not learning to play an instrument, has any effect at all with children or with babies."

Even so some British parents are convinced of the benefits. Shradha Sarogi, mother of two girls, says: "'My father studied in America and he reads a lot of books on child psychology. He told me to listen to Mozart because it's very important. Especially when I was pregnant. I got the music because I read about it that the beats of Mozart, like it's 60 beats in one minute, coincide with the heartbeat of the foetus. So it makes the child intelligent.

"They become more sharp. They respond more and they become brighter. I play them any classical music, not the rap or the pop music because I think that makes them very violent and disturbed."
In fact Mozart can be played at a variety of speeds, and some recorded rock music has 60 beats per minute. So, if the claims are true, some rock music should be equally effective in raising IQ.

The good news is that music lessons in childhood and particularly before the age of seven can have a lasting effect on children's development. Studies by Dr Rauscher and her colleagues in Wisconsin, USA, have shown that piano lessons in particular seem to help develop childrens' spatial-temporal intelligence.

Dr Lamont says "The keyboard seems to be most effective because it's a spatial layout, and music itself is arranged over time, so you have both elements that will help develop spatial-temporal thinking."

But, she also says: "Whether music learning has an effect on other areas of intelligence is more up in the air."

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