Studies on the Mozart Effect Phenomenon

A study was conducted on the effect of music listening for performance on a 25-question portion of the analytical section of the
Graduate Record Exam by 72 undergraduate students (M age 21.9 yr.). Five levels of an auditory condition were based on Mozart Piano Sonata No. 3 (K. 281), Movement I (Allegro); a rhythm excerpt; a melody excerpt; traffic sounds; and silence. Participants were randomly assigned to one of the stimuli.

After a 5-min., 43-sec. (length of the first Allegro movement) listening period, participants answered the questions. Analysis indicated participants achieved significantly higher mean scores after all auditory conditions than those in the silent condition. No statistically significant pairwise mean difference appeared between scores for the auditory conditions. Findings were interpreted in terms of an arousal framework, suggesting the higher means in all auditory conditions may reflect immediate exposure to auditory stimuli.

There is much attention that has recently been drawn to the possibly positive effects of listening to Mozart or other classical music on cognitive performance. Students listening to Mozart’s piano music for 10 minutes before testing performed better on IQ spatial reasoning tasks than when they had listened to a relaxation tape or remained in conditions of silence. Repetitive music had no positive effect on spatial reasoning or short-term memory performance measured with 16 short-term memory items. While the effect of Mozart’s classical music on intellectual performance of the students was consistent with the in the above studies, the neurophysiological basis of this effect has remained obscure.

Furthermore, present interests in associations between music and intelligence stems from two independent areas of research.

One focuses on the short-term effects of simply listening to music. The so called Mozart effect refers to the finding that passive listening to music composed by Mozart produces temporary increases in spatial abilities. Subsequent studies indicate, however, that the Mozart effect is difficult to replicate. When evident, it can be attributed to differences in arousal and mood generated by different testing conditions. Compared with sitting in silence for 10 minutes, listening to Mozart induces more positive moods and relatively optimal levels of arousal, which lead to higher levels of performance on tests of spatial abilities.

Despite issues with face validity, the Mozart Effect has been seriously discussed in such prestigious publications as Science and
Nature, and still frequents the pages of respected psychology journals. At times, there have been problems replicating the basic effect, but it has been suggested by Rauscher, Shaw, and Ky (1998) that inconsistent results by other researchers can be attributed to methodological differences.

Although other researchers cited that because of multiple intelligences, the Mozart effect, and emotional intelligence theories have
inadequate empirical support and are not consistent with cognitive neuroscience findings, these theories should not be applied in education. Proponents countered that their theories had sufficient empirical support, were consistent with cognitive neuroscience findings, and should be applied in education. However, Gardner and Moran offered no validating evidence for multiple intelligences, Rauscher and Hinton concluded that “listening-to-Mozart” studies should be disregarded, and Cherniss, Extein, Goleman, and Weissberg agreed that emotional intelligence lacked a unitary empirically supported construct.

On the other hand, studies from Nantais and Schellenberg had no difficulty replicating the basic finding: That is, they found a significant increase in performance on spatial-temporal tasks for subjects that heard a musical piece; but, there was no marked difference between those that heard Mozart or those who heard Schubert. Likewise, other researchers also observed that changes in mood can have a significant effect on cognitive performance, and that the original experimental conditions (e.g., listening to Mozart, relaxation music, or silence) likely each have an effect on mood and arousal. As such, the argument emerged that observed performance differences may occur due to improvements in mood and arousal rather than from neurophysiological priming.

In addition, Thompson, Schellenberg, and Husain reported that individuals that listened to Mozart performed better on
spatial tasks, but also scored higher on positive mood and arousal ratings. Subjects that scored low on mood and arousal showed no effect of the music. By examining participant’s spatial abilities after listening to a Mozart sonata (expected to produce positive mood), and an adagio by Albinoni (a sad piece), they were able to provide additional support for the arousal and mood hypothesis.

REFERENCE: Pelayo, JMG III “The Effect of Mozart’s Music” Psychology Research Volume 4, Number 2, February 2014 ISSN:2159-5542 David Publishing NY USA

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