Ever since researchers reported in 1993 that college students did better on spatial reasoning tests immediately after listening to Mozart's Sonata for Two Pianos in D Major, the so-called "Mozart Effect" became a popular science phenomenon. Following the initial study, Zell Miller, then governor of Georgia, promoted buying classical music for every infant in the state. CDs were marketed nationally with claims that they were "scientifically proven" to boost brainpower.
But other scientists, using various protocols, had trouble finding a significant effect. And some argued any effect might be explained by a positive mood induced by Mozart. After trying to replicate the original research on which the theory was based, researchers concluded that the music had no effect on the way students answer typical IQ test questions.
To begin, play the video of Mozart's Sonata for Two Pianos in D Major. Concentrate on the music more than on what you see in the video. When your teacher prompts you, describe how this piece of music makes you feel.
The following resources will give you more information about the Mozart effect studies, and about how scientific research was applied in situations and contexts that were not supported by the studies.
- Music and Memory and Intelligence from the Neuroscience for Kids website examines the original Mozart Effect study and compares it to subsequent research.
- The Mozart Effect: A Small Part of the Big Picture discusses the various studies that have been conducted on the Mozart Effect.
After you have explored the resources, answer these questions The Mozart Effect student sheet:
- Who were the research subjects in the original study?
- Explain the procedure used.
- Does this study prove that listening to Mozart will improve brain development in infants? Why or why not?
- What were some of the other studies that followed the original research? What were the findings of these studies?
- Why do you think that other researchers tried to repeat or verify the findings of the original study? Why is it important that they did so?
Working with your group, go to the Music and Memory and Intelligence article again. Follow the link to the topic you have been assigned You should prepare a brief, five-minute report on the topic that you explored.
Write a brief essay that answers one or more of these questions:
- What is the danger of being either categorically antagonistic or uncritically positive when evaluating scientific ideas and studies?
- In which ways do people fall prey to false scientific claims?
- What are the benefits and liabilities to society when the popular media cover scientific stories?
This esheet is a part of the The Mozart Effect lesson.