Do you believe in the “Mozart Effect”?

June 3, 2015

The mozart effect

Over 20 years after Frances Rauscher and Katherine Ky discovered the potential of the Mozart Effect – a temporary cognitive boost after listening to Mozart’s Sonata for Two Pianos K. 448 – another small study in Italy proves that the effect isn’t limited to college students. It works on the elderly, too.

The original study proved that college-aged students were able to quickly perform spatial reasoning tasks more coherently after listening to Mozart’s Piano Sonata in D Major for Two Pianos than those exposed to silence. That same study also looked into young children exposed to music lessons over a longer period: Children with just four months of music lessons scored better in basic spatial reasoning tests than children with eight months of no additional lessons.

This is hardly a surprise; it’s widely proven that children who take music lessons become better with math, reading, and spatial-temporal reasoning. But how can one sonata be enough to boost even a temporary cognitive change? Over the years, researchers have tried their best to dispute the effect, and they’ve come up with a few reasons that previous studies could be stilted.

Before you try using the Sonata before an exam or a tough day at work, consider these stipulations.

– The results seem more positive for non-musicians. Most experts find that seasoned musicians have been exposed to the effects over a longer period of time; essentially, they were already more advanced than non-musicians upon entering the study. Musicians also process music in both hemispheres, while non-musicians only process music in the right hemisphere – the same hemisphere that controls the spatial reasoning used in the task for the study. Perhaps, researchers think, the sonata’s stimulation is spread throughout both hemispheres for them, while non-musicians receive a more concentrated spark.

– It may not work on lefties. Left-handed people are more balanced in their thinking, spreading activity throughout both sides of the brain, so the concentrated effect on the right side of the brain may be null. But just because the Mozart Effect isn’t so effectual in lefties, Mozart can have a significant impact for anyone. (Fun fact: Mozart was a leftie, and thereby potentially immune to the Mozart Effect!)

Time to try the study! Have a listen to the song (below). Then, try completing a 100-piece jigsaw puzzle. Record your results. Tomorrow, after 10 minutes of silence, try another 100-piece puzzle. What were your results?

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