Brain Myth -- Listening to Mozart and Other Classical Music Makes You Smarter

In recent years, parents have been tempted to buy products that incorporate classical art and music – such as Baby Einstein DVDs. They hear stories that such exposure can increase children's cognitive development. Some parents even play classical music to developing fetuses during pregnancy. This idea – that listening to classical music can increase a person’s brainpower – has become so widespread that it has been termed "the Mozart effect."

So how did this myth start? In the 1950s, Albert Tomatis (an ear, nose and throat doctor) began claiming that listening to Mozart helped people with speech and auditory disorders. In the 1990s, a study at UC Irvine reported that students’ IQ scores went up by about 8 points when they listened to 10 minutes of a Mozart sonata before taking an IQ test. With these claims, the "Mozart effect" was born. Subsequently, a musician named Dan Campbell trademarked the phrase “the Mozart effect” and created books and CDs geared towards babies and children. Since then, other companies such as the Baby Einstein company, began making products for babies and toddlers incorporating classical art, music, and poetry.

However recently, new research has disputed these claims, and scientists have been unable to replicate the results of the UC Irvine study. In fact, some researchers have found that these products may be doing more harm than good (eg. They could cause overstimulation, might decrease face time with human beings which is the one thing that infants most need, and they may actually delay language development in toddlers).

Currently, there is no scientific information to prove that listening to classical music actually makes a person smarter. So, while listening to classical music by Mozart or other artists won’t hurt children, and may give them an appreciation for art and music, it is not likely to make them any smarter!

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