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What is the Mozart Effect? Does it make us smarter?

What is the Mozart Effect? Does it make us smarter?

April 29, 2024

In recent years the so-called "Mozart effect" has become very popular . According to those who defend the existence of this phenomenon, listening to the music of the Austrian composer, or classical music in general, increases intelligence and other cognitive abilities, especially during early development.

Although scientific research suggests that there is a real part In this type of affirmations, the truth is that the review of the existing literature shows that the potential benefits of listening to music have been oversized, at least in the field of intelligence. However, music can be very positive for people for other reasons.


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What is the Mozart effect?

We know as "Mozart effect" the hypothesis that proposes that listening to Mozart's music increases intelligence and has Cognitive benefits in babies and young children , although there are also some who say that these effects also occur in adults.

Most studies that have investigated the existence of this phenomenon have focused on the sonata K448 for two pianos of Mozart . Similar properties are attributed to other piano compositions by the same author and to many similar works in terms of structure, melody, harmony and tempo.


More broadly, this concept can be used to refer to the idea that music, especially classical music, is therapeutic for people and / or increases their intellectual capacities.

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The benefits of music

The clearer beneficial effects of music are related to emotional health. Since ancient times the human being has used this art as a method to reduce stress and improve mood , both consciously and without realizing it.

In this sense, we are currently talking about music therapy to refer to interventions that use music as a tool to reduce psychological discomfort, improve cognitive functions, develop motor skills or facilitate the acquisition of social skills, among other objectives.


Recent scientific research has confirmed much of what was believed: music therapy is effective for reduce the symptoms of mental disorders such as depression, dementia or schizophrenia , and also to reduce the risk of cardiovascular accidents.

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History and popularization

The Mozart effect began to popularize in the 90s with the appearance of the book "Pourquoi Mozart?" ("Why Mozart?"), By the French otolaryngologist Alfred Tomatis, who coined the term. This researcher claimed that listening to Mozart's music could have therapeutic effects on the brain and promote its development.

However, it was Don Campbell who popularized the concept of Tomatis through his book "The Mozart Effect" ("The Mozart effect"). Campbell attributed to Mozart's music beneficial properties "to heal the body, strengthen the mind and liberate the creative spirit," as the book's extended title reads.

Campbell's work was based on a study by researchers Frances Rauscher, Gordon Shaw and Catherine Ky published a few years earlier in the journal Nature. However, this study showed only a slight improvement in spatial reasoning up to 15 minutes after listening to the K448 sonata.

Articles in the New York Times or Boston Globe also contributed to the current fame of the Mozart effect. After the publication of all this literature began to form a business around musical compilations with supposed intellectual benefits, especially for children , since Campbell also wrote the book "The Mozart Effect for Children".

Investigations on the Mozart effect

Affirmations made by Campbell and by the mentioned articles They clearly exaggerated the conclusions of the study de Rauscher et al., who found only slight evidence of a possible short-term improvement in spatial reasoning. In no sense can be extracted from existing research that music increases the IQ, at least directly.

In general, experts say that the Mozart effect is an experimental artifact that would be explained by the euphoric effects of some musical works and because of the increase in brain activation they cause. Both factors have been related to the improvement of cognitive functions in the short term.

Therefore, the benefits of the Mozart effect, which is real in a certain way, are not specific to the work of this author or classical music, but are shared by many other compositions and even by very different activities, such as the reading or sports.

On the other hand, and although it has not been shown that listening to classical music during early development is necessarily beneficial, the practice of a musical instrument can promote the emotional well-being and cognitive development of children if it motivates and stimulates them intellectually. Something similar happens with other forms of art and creativity.

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Bibliographic references:

  • Campbell, D. (1997). The Mozart Effect: Tapping the power of music to heal the body, strengthen the mind, and unlock the creative spirit (1st Ed.). New York: Avon Books.
  • Campbell, D. (2000). The Mozart Effect for children: Awakening your child's mind, health, and creativity with music. New York: HarperCollins.
  • Jenkins, J. S. (2001). The Mozart effect. Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine, 94 (4): 170-172.
  • Rauscher, F. H., Shaw, G. L. & Ky, C. N. (1993). Music and spatial task performance. Nature, 365 (6447): 611.
  • Tomatis, A. (1991). Pourquoi Mozart? Paris: Hachette.

Classical Music for Brain Power - Mozart (April 2024).


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