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Does classical music enhance intelligence in children more than other genres?

Does classical music enhance intelligence in children more than other genres?



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This question is based on a previous question I have written on Parenting SE: Does playing classical music for infants and young children make them smarter?

Question:

Are these claims actually saying classical music is more intelligence enhancing than other forms of music? If so, is that true?

As a composer, I would find this interesting because I think certainly there are many different kinds of music and it seems very surprising to single out one genre as requiring more intelligence.

For instance, suppose you say Mozart is more sophisticated then the Boss (Bruce Springsteen) and therefore more intelligence promoting. By that logic then, Schoenberg's music should be better for children than Mozart since Schoenberg is certainly more complex than Mozart (e.g. chromatic vs diatonic scales; polymeter vs single meter). But I would never play Schoenberg for my child instead of Mozart because I find Schoenberg unnatural to listen to because it is so weird and complex. The point is I think simply saying classical music is more sophisticated or superior isn't a very meaningful distinction and greater clarification should be given about why classical music in particular enhances learning (if in fact that has any basis).

Another way of saying this is, why doesn't music in general enhance it then? Why classical music in particular?


A great overview of this topic is available in Chapter 6 of the book The Invisible Gorilla by Chabris & Simons. My answer is based, in large part, on their summary of the topic.

The "Mozart Effect" was originally reported by Rauscher, Shaw, & Ky (1993). In the experiment, college students completed a set of typical IQ tests. Before taking the tests, the participants were randomly assigned to either (1) listen to 10 minutes of Mozart, (2) listen to 10 minutes of relaxation instructions, or (3) sit in silence for 10 minutes. They reported that participants who listened to Mozart scored an average of 8-9 IQ points higher on the tests than the other groups.

The effect turns out to be difficult to replicate. This is nicely summarized in the introduction of Steele, Bass, & Crook (1999), who also conducted a replication of the original design and found no evidence of a Mozart effect.

Your question is specifically about classical versus other kinds of music, and this is indeed a topic that has been researched as a follow-up to the Mozart Effect. One theory that arose to explain the Mozart Effect (even though the effect itself may not be all that reliable!) is that it has nothing to do with classical music in particular. Rather, the effect is simply about arousal and mood. Listening to music may not increase your intelligence, but it might make you more alert and engaged than sitting in silence or listening to a relaxation script. Schellenberg & Hallam (2006) reported a study in which participants (8,000 British school children!) listened to either (1) a Mozart string quintet, (2) three pop songs, or (3) a discussion about a science experiment. The children who listened to the pop songs performed significantly better than the others, and there was no benefit of Mozart over the science discussion. Nantais & Schellenberg (1999) demonstrated that there was no overall difference between listening to Mozart or an excerpt from a Stephen King story, but participants did tend to do better if they got to listen to the thing they preferred! One explanation, then, is that listening to something you like before taking an IQ test increases your performance (or, conversely, listening to something you don't like decreases performance).


Music May Make Children Smarter and Definitely Boosts Their Wellbeing

This interest in the relationship between musical aptitude on ability and intelligence has been around for some time. But despite these beliefs being pretty widespread, there is still no conclusive evidence to actually prove that listening to certain types of music really can improve your intelligence.

In 1974, music researchers Desmond Sergeant and Gillian Thatcher said that:

All highly intelligent people are not necessarily musical, but all highly musical people are apparently highly intelligent.

And "apparently" is the key word here, because the evidence regarding musical listening in itself is mixed. Research has shown that listening to music shows an improvement in certain kinds of mental tasks. But these are specifically short-term improvements involving "spatial-temporal reasoning" skills&mdashpuzzle solving type tasks.

Listening vs playing

But while listening to music is all well and good, what about actually playing it? Research that focuses on how or if playing a musical instrument can impact on intelligence, often looks at how learning in one area can lead to improvements in other areas&mdashan idea known as "transfer effects".

This is the idea that learning to play the violin, or the drums, could help children to do better in their spellings or a science project. And this is in part the reason why some parents naturally encourage their children to learn an instrument&mdashthe belief that it will in some way make them more intelligent.

While some studies have shown how musical training can shape brain development and that improvements in small motor skills and general intelligence have been linked to musical training, a recent review suggests that actual evidence supporting the idea of "transfer effects" is limited at present.

But despite these findings, there is still a wealth of evidence suggesting musical learning is beneficial. And with this in mind, drawing from my experience as a professional musician (drummer), music teacher and performing artist, I decided to investigate the effects of individual musical instrument learning on aspects of cognitive and behavioral development.

I also looked at the impact on "socio-emotional" development, that includes the child's experience, expression, and management of emotions, as well as the ability to establish positive and rewarding relationships with others.

All the children who took part in the study had typical school group music lessons, but half of them had also chosen to learn an instrument individually for the first time that year.

The results showed that children who had started individual music lessons developed a better awareness of their "aim" and "force" in relation to their own motor skills, as well as improving their "fluid intelligence"&mdashwhich is the ability to solve new problems, use logic in new situations and identify patterns.

This suggests that musical instrument learning encourages the development of a physical sense of self in relation to the how we use objects in the world around us, as well as developing a specific kind of intelligence that is used in problem solving.

Music and social development

As part of my research, I also wanted to understand whether parents and teachers noticed any changes over the year in terms of the children's socio-emotional well-being. The results showed that the children who had chosen to learn an instrument individually were considered by both their parents and teachers to be less anxious than those who had received only group lessons.

These children were also thought to internalize their problems less compared to the children who had only received the group sessions.

This is also reflected in my research looking at adult musicians, who explained that the "social structures" surrounding musical learning are the bits that they most appreciate, and have had the biggest impact on their lives.

This includes the opportunities to travel, the exchanges of culture among friends around the world, and their ongoing ability to foster creativity in their lives through music.

Musical learning

It is clear then that music can have a big role to play when it comes to children's learning. Not necessarily just in terms of intelligence, but also in term of their physical development and social well-being.

Research also shows how musical learning can help children to apply themselves, as well supporting the processes involved in teamwork and appreciation of working toward shared goals.

Valuing music education includes nurturing the development of these abilities, and these skills and mindsets. That is why developing a culture of creativity and musical learning in our schools should be a key part of children's lives.

Dawn Rose is researcher in the psychology of music and dance at the University of Hertfordshire.


Does listening to music while studying make you a better student?

Is music a distraction or does it help you study better? Source: Shutterstock

Many students around the world feel they need to listen to music while they study or revise, believing it helps them ‘concentrate better’.

Some even say that without music, they can’t revise as it’s too quiet. On the flip side, there are those who find music incredibly distracting and need silence to function best during work or study.

So is it really true that listening to music helps students study better? Or is it really a distraction they’re not aware of? Here’s what science has to say about it.

The Mozart Effect

Can music really help a person study better? Source: Shutterstock

The theory that listening to music, particularly classical music, makes people smarter, was developed in the early 1990s.

It was dubbed the Mozart Effect by Dr Gordon Shaw, who conducted research on the brain capacity for spatial reasoning.

Along with his graduate student Xiodan Leng, he developed a model of the brain and used musical notes to represent brain activity, which resembled that of classical music notes when analysed.

This led them to test the results of classical music on college students’ brains. In 1993, he reported that a group of college students increased their IQ levels as much as nine points as a result of listening to Mozart’s “Sonata for Two Pianos in D Major.”

When it was reported, the media ran with it, proclaiming that ‘classical music helps kids become smarter’.

This led to the birth of development toys involving classical music for children, and advice to pregnant women to place headphones on their bellies for their babies to hear classical music so that they would, purportedly, be born smart.

The Mozart effect was later found to be misleading, and some now call it the Mozart myth.

This is due to a number of reasons. Firstly, college students were only tested on spatial intelligence, which required them to do tasks such as folding a paper or maze-solving, which is just one type of intelligence.

Ten years after the theory became wildly popular, a team of researchers gathered the results from almost 40 studies conducted on the Mozart Effect, and found very little evidence that listening to classical music really does help performance of specific tasks.

They found zero evidence that IQ levels can actually increase when listening to classical music.

Therefore, it has not been proven that listening to classical music, or any music for that matter, actually makes a person smarter or more intelligent.

Music does improve your mood

What about mood? Does music improve moods? Source: Shutterstock

However, listening to music can make you a happier person, as music releases pleasurable emotions and increases dopamine levels.

According to research, listening to music triggers the release of dopamine in our brains. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that promotes feelings of happiness and excitement.

Studies have found that people may be better at solving problems when they are in a positive mood compared to when they are in a negative or neutral mood.

Music that is relaxing also helps students with stress and anxiety, thus leading them to study more efficiently.

Research has found that listening to music actually lowers your cortisol levels. Cortisol is a hormone that is usually responsible for feelings of stress and anxiety.

Since music helps to chill you out, you can also sleep better. When you have better sleep habits, you tend to be less stressed out, which leads to a more productive day of studying.

For long study sessions, background music is helpful as students are more focused and motivated when they are in a good mood, which helps them endure studying for a longer time.

So if you need music to relax and get you in a better mood, which leads to a better quality study session, then it’s worth a try.

It can hinder learning

Could listening to music while studying impair learning? Source: Shutterstock

Several studies show that students who listen to music while completing tasks such as reading and writing tend to be less efficient, and don’t absorb much information compared to those who don’t listen to music.

In addition, loud or ‘angry’ music has negative effects on reading comprehension, as well as mood. This makes them less efficient on the tasks.

Research does suggest that music helps with memorisation. Theories indicate that by being in a positive mood, memory formation works better.

However, students who use music to help them memorise often find it hard to recall the information later as the test is taken in a silent environment. Information recall has been proven to be more effective when it’s done in a similar environment as the one it was memorised in.

Therefore, students who prefer studying in a quiet environment benefit more when it comes to recalling information later on a test.

The type of music does matter

Different strokes for different folks: the type of music you listen to makes all the difference for those who prefer some background noise when studying. Source: Shutterstock

According to a study done at the University of Phoenix, as well as various other studies, listening to music with lyrics is quite distracting while you read, study, and write.

They found that your brain struggles to process the lyrics and focus on your schoolwork at the same time. Basically, you are multi-tasking, which according to research, actually can decrease your IQ by ten points.

It makes sense that if you are using your precious concentration levels on listening and singing along to your favourite tunes, you’re being distracted from focusing on your studies and writing tasks.

However, the Mozart effect may not be a complete myth, after all. Research does suggest that although listening to classical music might not increase a students’ intelligence, it could help students study better.

A study done in France, published in Learning and Individual Differences, found that students who listened to a lecture while classical music was played in the background performed better on a quiz when compared to those who went through the lecture without music.

The researchers gathered that the background music put students at ease, making them more receptive to information.

They wrote, “It is possible that music, provoking a change in the learning environment, influenced the students’ motivation to remain focused during the lecture, which led to better performance on the multiple-choice quiz.”

In summary, if you find listening to music a distraction, then it’s best not to try using it as a way to make you a better or smarter student.

However, if you find it relaxing and puts you in a pleasant mood, then try playing soothing music in the background, without lyrics, so it doesn’t distract you or prevent you from studying efficiently.

Like many learning processes, it really depends on the individual and what works for you.


The Impact of Listening to Music on Cognitive Performance

Listening to music for relaxation is common among students to counter the effects of stress or anxiety while completing difficult academic tasks. Some studies supporting this technique have shown that background music promotes cognitive performance while other studies have shown that listening to music while engaged in complex cognitive tasks can impair performance. This study focuses on the impact different genres of music, played at different volume levels, have on the cognitive abilities of college students completing academic tasks.

Many students listen to music to alleviate the emotional effects of stress and anxiety when engaged in complex cognitive processing, such as studying for a test, completing homework assignments, or while reading and writing. This practice is so common that it would be beneficial for college students to understand the role that music plays on cognitive performance. Research demonstrating the effects of music on performance is well documented, but have shown ambiguous evidence on this matter. In studies conducted to learn about the effects of musical distraction on cognitive task performance, the findings have demonstrated the idea of music improving cognitive performance (Cockerton, Moore, & Norman, 1997), but there has also been research contradicting those results, where music was found distracting for participants performing cognitive tasks (Furnham & Bradley, 1997). However, with the plethora of music genres available to music listeners, it is important to understand how different types of music impact performance. Additionally, very few studies address the interaction between the intensity or volume of the music played and its effect on cognitive processing. The present study aims to understand the effect of listening to different genres of music played at different volume levels on cognitive task performance.

Many students choose to listen to a preferred genre of music when they study or do their homework without understanding the potential harmful effects of such practice. A study conducted by Smith and Morris (1977) addressed this question by studying the effects of sedative and stimulative music. The study focused on the influence these two distinct genres of music have on performance, anxiety, and concentration. Participants had to indicate their preferred genre and were requested to repeat a set of numbers backwards while listening to either the stimulative, sedative, or no music. The results indicated that participants performed worse while listening to their preferred type of music. Additionally, in the no music condition, participants performed best. These results indicate that a preferred type of music can serve as a distracting factor when one is engaged in a cognitively demanding task perhaps due to the fact that less cognitive resources are available when the attention is drawn to the lyrics, emotions, and memories that such music can evoke. Participants who listened to sedative music performed better than participants who listened to simulative music and worse than those who listened to no music at all. These results indicated that stimulative music is a stronger distractor and obstructs cognitive processing more than sedative music does.

Photo: Flickr/Nickolai Kashirin CC-2

The influence of music on cognitive performance has also been linked to personality types. A study conducted by Furnham and Bradley (1997) illustrated pop music as a distracter on the cognitive performance of introverts and extraverts. They predicted that extraverts would outperform introverts in the presence of music. The participants were required to perform two cognitive tasks: a memory test with both an immediate and a delayed recall and a reading comprehension test. The two tasks would be completed in the pop music condition as well as in silence. The results determined that immediate recall on the memory test was severely impaired for both introverts and extraverts when the pop music was played. In the delayed recall component of the memory test, introverts showed significantly poorer recall than did extraverts in the pop music condition as well as introverts in the silent condition. Also the introverts&rsquo performance on the reading comprehension task in the pop music condition was impaired when compared to extraverts in the same condition and to introverts who performed the task in silence. Overall, the researchers determined that pop music served as a distractor for the cognitive performance of both extraverts and introverts however, introverts seemed to be most affected. Interestingly, this study revealed some evidence that overall background noise, such as television, music, and chatter could improve performance in complex cognitive tasks for extraverts, although it will significantly impair introverts&rsquo performance (Furnham & Bradley, 1997).

Studies involving noise as a distraction have demonstrated the same ambiguous results regarding their effect on cognitive processing as studies involving background music. Dobbs, Furnham, and McClelland (2011) conducted a study that tested the effect of distracters, specifically background noise and music, on cognitive tasks for introverts and extraverts. The researchers hypothesized that performance, for both introverts and extraverts, would be worse in the presence of music and noise than it would be in silence specifically, for all the cognitive tasks, performance would diminish in the presence of background noise, improve with only background music, and be optimal in silence. The findings supported their predictions and showed that cognitive performance in silence was better than performance with background music, which in turn was better than performance with background noise. The results also demonstrated that, overall, performance in silence was best when compared to performance in background noise and music (Dobbs, Furnham, & McClelland, 2011). In contrast, a study conducted by Pool (2002), monitored the distracting effects of background television on homework performance and did not find any significant impairment on homework assignments when students were distracted by television while working on those assignments. These findings indicate that background noise, just like background music impacts cognitive performance in ways that have not been fully understood by researchers.

Although previous research has established that music can either distract or facilitate cognitive task performance, improved performance in the presence of music might be directly related to the type of music listened to (Cockerton, Moore, & Norman, 1997). A study conducted by Hallman, Price, and Katsarou, (2002) supported this argument. In fact, they tested the effect of calming and relaxing music on arithmetic and memory performance tests in children ranging from ages ten to twelve. They found better performance on both tasks in the calming and relaxing music condition when compared with a no-music condition. They also tested these children in an arousing, aggressive, and unpleasant music condition, and the results showed that their performance on both tasks was heavily disrupted and led to a lower level of reported altruistic behavior by the children (Hallman, Price, & Katsarou, 2002). Although these data did not find that calming music enhanced performance, one might imply that this type of music can provide a soothing environment that puts students at ease, facilitating cognitive processing.

The present study considers the effects of two different types of music at varying intensities on cognitive task performance and compared them to tasks performed in silence. It was predicted that tasks performed in silence would yield better results than tasks performed both in the soft music and the loud music conditions, demonstrating that music is a distracter to cognitive performance. Additionally, performance scores were expected to be significantly lower in the presence of loud music at a high intensity, suggesting that both the type of music and the volume at which the music is played are contributors to the distracting effect of music. Finally, performance was predicted to be significantly higher in the presence of soft music compared to loud music.

Methodology

Participants

Thirty-two undergraduate students (twenty-five females, seven males), ranging in age from 20 to 41 years from the University of Maryland, Baltimore County (UMBC) at Shady Grove participated in this study. Participants were selected from a psychology class and received extra credit for their participation as agreed on by the class&rsquos instructor. All students participated on a voluntary basis.

Materials

This study used five different arithmetic tests to measure cognitive performance (Appendix A). The tests consisted of 20 different operations: 5 multiplication, 5 division, 5 addition, and 5 subtraction problems. The order of operations was randomized throughout the tests. No question involved operations with more than a three-digit number. The five tests were similar in difficulty. Loud music was defined as heavy-rock metal music, and the song used in that condition was &ldquoNot Ready to Die&rdquo (Demon Hunters, 2004). Soft music was defined as classical piano-only music, and the piece that was used in that condition was &ldquoMorning Light&rdquo (Beeson, 2004).

Procedures

The study was conducted in rooms assigned by the University of Maryland, Baltimore County (UMBC) at Shady Grove. Participants were given informed consent forms to fill out at the beginning of the experiment and a research participation credit sheet. A repeated-measure design was used in this study. All thirty-two participants were exposed to all five conditions. The researcher explained to participants that music would be played while they solved the questions on the tests. The volume at each music condition was adjusted as the experiment progressed.

The participants were asked to solve five arithmetic tests with twenty different questions on each test. The first test was conducted in the soft music condition at low intensity (Test 1- SM-LO), and the second test, in the loud music condition at low intensity (Test 2-LM-LO). The third test was performed in complete silence (Test 3- SIL). The fourth and fifth tests were conducted in soft music and loud music conditions, respectively, both at high volume intensity (Test 4-SM-HI and Test 5 LM-HI). The participants were allowed sixty seconds to complete each test. There was a twenty second waiting period between each test. The participants were not allowed to use a calculator or any other electronic device to complete the questions on the tests.

Results

This study was conducted in a repeated-measured design therefore, a paired sample t-test was used for the analysis. An alpha level of .05 was used for the analysis. The independent variable was the type of music played at two different levels of intensity: high intensity and low intensity. The dependent variable was the performance score, which was measured in terms of accurate answers obtained in each of the tests. The tests were not graded for completion but for accuracy only.

In agreement with the first hypothesis, performance scores were significantly higher in silence (M= 12.94) than in all four music conditions, intensity levels, and types of music combined (M= 11.99), t(31)= 2.21, p <.05. The second hypothesis was also supported in the study participants obtained significantly higher test scores at low intensity (M= 25.63) than at high intensity of both types of music (M= 22.34), t(31)= 4.75, p <.001. Performance scores were also significantly higher in silence (M= 12.94) than in loud music at high intensity (M= 10.78), t(31) = -2.90, p< .05.

However, there was also no significant difference in test scores between participants in the soft music conditions (M= 23.75) and performance in the loud music conditions (M= 24.22), t(31)= -0.56, p= 0.582.

Discussion

The present study sought to demonstrate the impact of different genres of music played at different volume levels on cognitive performance. In accordance with the first hypothesis, participants performed better in silence than they did in any music conditions. The findings were also in agreement with the second hypothesis. They demonstrated that the performance was significantly worse in the presence of loud music at high intensity. Contrary to the third hypothesis, however, there was no significant difference between the type of music that was played and performance scores. The scores were not significantly higher in the soft music versus the loud music condition. Interestingly, there was no difference when the scores from the soft music at high intensity were compared to scores from the loud music at high intensity.

These results seem to parallel those of Smith and Morris (1977). In their study, they also found that participants performed better on a cognitive processing test while listening to no music than they did while listening to either stimulating or sedative music. They determined that performance is impaired with music and optimized with no music. However, their study revealed that participants performed significantly better while listening to sedative music than they did while listening to stimulating music, whereas the current experiment found no significant difference in test scores between the loud music and soft music conditions.

The third hypothesis suggested that performance would be better in the soft music condition when compared to the loud music condition because it was believed that classical music would provide a positive, soothing, and comfortable environment for the participants due to its relaxing tone that will facilitate information processing. However, that hypothesis was not supported by the results it is important to note that the overall performance was significantly lower in the loud music at high intensity. Based on these results, the presence of lyrics and the consistent use of louder instruments, such as drums, bass and, electric guitar to the heavy metal rock music can be seen as reasons for its distracting effects.

Interestingly, while the findings of this study revealed that it is the intensity of the music rather than the type of music that matters the most when it comes to cognitive performance, it is still noteworthy to point out that scores were significantly higher when participants completed the tests in the silence condition. Through this process, it can be implied that it is easier to process information in the presence of a minimal level of distraction. It can be implied that students should not listen to any music or allow any auditory disturbance while studying to obtain maximum performance level. Students should strive to study and learn in an environment such as the library or a private study room that is as quiet as possible, especially when the material requires higher cognitive processing.

The sample size was the major limitation of this study. Although two of the predictions were supported with this sample, large samples could have provided more reliable significances that could be generalized to the college student population. Due to the limited availability of participants, this study was conducted in a repeated-measured design, which could also be a limiting factor. The sequence in which the tests were given was not randomized throughout the experiment as such, learning effects could account for the improvement in later tests as the study progressed. Future research should strive to change the sequence in which the tests are administered to guarantee that the results obtained are those of the treatment effects and to eliminate or reduce possible learning effects.

The design of the room could also be another limitation to this experiment. Where participants were seated in the room could have had an effect on how the music was heard. Hence, for participants sitting closer to the speakers, the music was louder than those who were sitting on the other side of the room. This variance in volume level may have either positively or negatively affected the results. Although, some of the results from this study showed that the arithmetic problems were a sufficient tool to assess cognitive performance however, they may have been too simple for students on the collegiate level to perform. Besides, there were no mathematical base level assessments conducted prior to the study. Participants with stronger skills could have had a biased advantage, whereas those with lower mathematical skills would have had a biased disadvantage. Future research should plan to design more complex cognitive processing tests, such as memory tests or reading comprehension questions from standardized tests like the GRE or the SAT. This could provide a more accurate depiction of the participants&rsquo cognitive processing abilities.

Results from the current study demonstrated how important it is to consider the effects of distracting music on cognitive performance. It was shown that the volume plays a crucial role and could be more important than the type of music played. However, data from this study has demonstrated that silence seems to be the best environment to maximize performance when engaging in cognitive activity. Classical music was not shown to enhance performance contrary to the study&rsquos expectations. Hence, the direct benefits of listening to music on cognitive processing could be more of a fantasy than a reality.

References

Beeson, Sean. (2004). Morning Light. On Ivory Dreams [CD]. United States: Serenity Studio LLC.

Cockerton, T., Moore, S., & Norman, D. (1997). Cognitive test performance and background music. Perceptual and Motor Skills, 85(3, Pt 2), 1435-1438.

Demon Hunter. (2004). Not ready to die. On Summer of Darkness [CD]. Nashville, United States: Solid State.

Dobbs, S., Furnham, A., & McClelland, A. (2011).The effect of background music and noise on the cognitive test performance of introverts and extraverts. Applied Cognitive Psychology, 25(2), 307&ndash313.

Furnham, A., & Bradley, A. (1997). Music while you work: The differential distraction of background music on the cognitive test performance of introverts and extraverts. Applied Cognitive Psychology, 11(5), 445-455.

Hallman, S., Price, J., & Katsarou, G. (2002). The effects of background music on primary school's pupils' task performance. Educational Studies, 28(2), 111-122.

Pool, M. M. (2002). Distraction effects of background television on homework performance. Noise and Vibration Worldwide, 33(1), 24-28.


Children get plenty of benefits from music lessons. Learning to play instruments can fuel their creativity, and practicing can teach much-needed focus and discipline. And the payoff, whether in learning a new song or just mastering a chord, often boosts self-esteem.

But Harvard researchers now say that one oft-cited benefit — that studying music improves intelligence — is a myth.

Though it has been embraced by everyone from advocates for arts education to parents hoping to encourage their kids to stick with piano lessons, a pair of studies conducted by Samuel Mehr, a Harvard Graduate School of Education (HGSE) doctoral student working in the lab of Elizabeth Spelke, the Marshall L. Berkman Professor of Psychology, found that music training had no effect on the cognitive abilities of young children. The studies are described in a Dec. 11 paper published in the open-access journal PLoS One.

“More than 80 percent of American adults think that music improves children’s grades or intelligence,” Mehr said. “Even in the scientific community, there’s a general belief that music is important for these extrinsic reasons. But there is very little evidence supporting the idea that music classes enhance children’s cognitive development.”

The notion that music training can make someone smarter, Mehr said, can largely be traced to a single study published in Nature. In it, researchers identified what they called the “Mozart effect.” After listening to music, test subjects performed better on spatial tasks.

Though the study was later debunked, the notion that simply listening to music could make someone smarter became firmly embedded in the public imagination, and spurred a host of follow-up studies, including several that focused on the cognitive benefits of music lessons.

Though dozens of studies have explored whether and how music and cognitive skills might be connected, when Mehr and colleagues reviewed the literature they found only five studies that used randomized trials, the gold standard for determining causal effects of educational interventions on child development. Of the five, only one showed an unambiguously positive effect, and it was so small — just a 2.7 point increase in IQ after a year of music lessons — that it was barely enough to be statistically significant.

“The experimental work on this question is very much in its infancy, but the few published studies on the topic show little evidence for ‘music makes you smarter,’” Mehr said.

To explore the connection between music and cognition, Mehr and his colleagues recruited 29 parents and 4-year-old children from the Cambridge area. After initial vocabulary tests for the children and music aptitude tests for the parents, each was randomly assigned to one of two classes, one that had music training, or another that focused on visual arts.

“We wanted to test the effects of the type of music education that actually happens in the real world, and we wanted to study the effect in young children, so we implemented a parent-child music enrichment program with preschoolers,” Mehr said. “The goal is to encourage musical play between parents and children in a classroom environment, which gives parents a strong repertoire of musical activities they can continue to use at home with their kids.”

Harvard study on music and cognition

Children and parents take part in a music training class as part of a Harvard study that explored whether studying music improved cognition among young children.

Among the key changes Mehr and his colleagues made from earlier studies were controlling for the effect of different teachers — Mehr taught both the music and visual arts classes — and using assessment tools designed to test areas of cognition, vocabulary, mathematics, and two spatial tasks.

“Instead of using something general, like an IQ test, we tested four specific domains of cognition,” Mehr said. “If there really is an effect of music training on children’s cognition, we should be able to better detect it here than in previous studies, because these tests are more sensitive than tests of general intelligence.”

The study’s results, however, showed no evidence for cognitive benefits of music training.

While the groups performed comparably on vocabulary and number-estimation tasks, the assessments showed that children who received music training performed slightly better at one spatial task, while those who received visual arts training performed better at the other.

“Study One was very small. We only had 15 children in the music group, and 14 in the visual arts,” Mehr said. “The effects were tiny, and their statistical significance was marginal at best. So we attempted to replicate the study, something that hasn’t been done in any of the previous work.”

To replicate the effect, Mehr and colleagues designed a second study that recruited 45 parents and children, half of whom received music training, and half of whom received no training.

Just as in the first study, Mehr said, there was no evidence that music training offered any cognitive benefit. Even when the results of both studies were pooled to allow researchers to compare the effect of music training, visual arts training, and no training, there was no sign that any group outperformed the others.

“There were slight differences in performance between the groups, but none were large enough to be statistically significant,” Mehr said. “Even when we used the finest-grained statistical analyses available to us, the effects just weren’t there.”

While the results suggest studying music may not be a shortcut to educational success, Mehr said there is still substantial value in music education.

“There’s a compelling case to be made for teaching music that has nothing to do with extrinsic benefits,” he said. “We don’t teach kids Shakespeare because we think it will help them do better on the SATs. We do it because we believe Shakespeare is important.

“Music is an ancient, uniquely human activity. The oldest flutes that have been dug up are 40,000 years old, and human song long preceded that,” he said. “Every single culture in the world has music, including music for children. Music says something about what it means to be human, and it would be crazy not to teach this to our children.”

The study was supported by funding from the Dana Foundation, and inspired by the work of William Safire.


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At some point in their lives, most parents, expectant parents, grandparents, and others have pondered the “Mozart effect,” which holds that exposing babies to classical music, even in utero, boosts their IQ and other aspects of their cognitive development.

But is there any truth to the Mozart effect? Its primary scientific support comes from a 1993 study showing that classical music temporarily improved college students’ scores on two parts of a general intelligence test. Subsequent studies have found classical music improved preschoolers’ performance on paper folding and cutting tasks. But the kids did just as well after they’d heard stories or listened to children’s music. What’s more, their performance depended on how much they liked the music or stories, which led to the counter theory that “enjoyment arousal” is what truly affects performance, not classical music per se.

But does Mozart affect the brain? Spearheaded by a 1964 Journal of Comparative Neurology article by neuroscientist Marian Diamond, decades of research has shown that different kinds of “enriched environments” can enhance brain development. Diamond’s work showed that when rats lived in environmentally enriched cages—with toys and the company of other rats—their brains showed greater cell density and more complex networks of connections between neurons than did the brains of rats who’d been living alone in small, bleak cages. Related research has shown that repeatedly playing music to baby rats can cause similar kinds of neural growth in their auditory cortex. Proponents of the Mozart effect often cite this line of research. But it’s unclear how—and whether—these kinds of changes in brain shape impact intelligence. Moreover, there’s little evidence that Mozart would have a stronger effect than Raffi , rock and roll, Chinese opera, or singing birds.

A new research trend focuses on the effects of studying music so far, results suggest that, in fact, music study can boost kids’ IQ more than simply listening to it.

For now, at least, this much seems clear: It’s probably beneficial to do things with babies that engage them and make them feel happily aroused—and if they seem to enjoy classical music, put on your tutu and dance!


Classical Music's Calming Effects

Duke University's Dr. Kevin Labar says that classical music can improve your intellectual performance, but not by raising your IQ. Classical music can produce a calming effect by releasing pleasure-inducing dopamine and inhibiting the release of stress hormones, all of which generates a pleasant mood. "And inducing a pleasant mood," says Labar, "seems to clarify thinking." Classical music, however, is not the only way to enhance relaxation, as other calming activities produce a similar result. It also depends on personal taste: If you don't find classical music relaxing, you won't experience these effects.


The Impact of Listening to Music on Cognitive Performance

Listening to music for relaxation is common among students to counter the effects of stress or anxiety while completing difficult academic tasks. Some studies supporting this technique have shown that background music promotes cognitive performance while other studies have shown that listening to music while engaged in complex cognitive tasks can impair performance. This study focuses on the impact different genres of music, played at different volume levels, have on the cognitive abilities of college students completing academic tasks.

Many students listen to music to alleviate the emotional effects of stress and anxiety when engaged in complex cognitive processing, such as studying for a test, completing homework assignments, or while reading and writing. This practice is so common that it would be beneficial for college students to understand the role that music plays on cognitive performance. Research demonstrating the effects of music on performance is well documented, but have shown ambiguous evidence on this matter. In studies conducted to learn about the effects of musical distraction on cognitive task performance, the findings have demonstrated the idea of music improving cognitive performance (Cockerton, Moore, & Norman, 1997), but there has also been research contradicting those results, where music was found distracting for participants performing cognitive tasks (Furnham & Bradley, 1997). However, with the plethora of music genres available to music listeners, it is important to understand how different types of music impact performance. Additionally, very few studies address the interaction between the intensity or volume of the music played and its effect on cognitive processing. The present study aims to understand the effect of listening to different genres of music played at different volume levels on cognitive task performance.

Many students choose to listen to a preferred genre of music when they study or do their homework without understanding the potential harmful effects of such practice. A study conducted by Smith and Morris (1977) addressed this question by studying the effects of sedative and stimulative music. The study focused on the influence these two distinct genres of music have on performance, anxiety, and concentration. Participants had to indicate their preferred genre and were requested to repeat a set of numbers backwards while listening to either the stimulative, sedative, or no music. The results indicated that participants performed worse while listening to their preferred type of music. Additionally, in the no music condition, participants performed best. These results indicate that a preferred type of music can serve as a distracting factor when one is engaged in a cognitively demanding task perhaps due to the fact that less cognitive resources are available when the attention is drawn to the lyrics, emotions, and memories that such music can evoke. Participants who listened to sedative music performed better than participants who listened to simulative music and worse than those who listened to no music at all. These results indicated that stimulative music is a stronger distractor and obstructs cognitive processing more than sedative music does.

Photo: Flickr/Nickolai Kashirin CC-2

The influence of music on cognitive performance has also been linked to personality types. A study conducted by Furnham and Bradley (1997) illustrated pop music as a distracter on the cognitive performance of introverts and extraverts. They predicted that extraverts would outperform introverts in the presence of music. The participants were required to perform two cognitive tasks: a memory test with both an immediate and a delayed recall and a reading comprehension test. The two tasks would be completed in the pop music condition as well as in silence. The results determined that immediate recall on the memory test was severely impaired for both introverts and extraverts when the pop music was played. In the delayed recall component of the memory test, introverts showed significantly poorer recall than did extraverts in the pop music condition as well as introverts in the silent condition. Also the introverts&rsquo performance on the reading comprehension task in the pop music condition was impaired when compared to extraverts in the same condition and to introverts who performed the task in silence. Overall, the researchers determined that pop music served as a distractor for the cognitive performance of both extraverts and introverts however, introverts seemed to be most affected. Interestingly, this study revealed some evidence that overall background noise, such as television, music, and chatter could improve performance in complex cognitive tasks for extraverts, although it will significantly impair introverts&rsquo performance (Furnham & Bradley, 1997).

Studies involving noise as a distraction have demonstrated the same ambiguous results regarding their effect on cognitive processing as studies involving background music. Dobbs, Furnham, and McClelland (2011) conducted a study that tested the effect of distracters, specifically background noise and music, on cognitive tasks for introverts and extraverts. The researchers hypothesized that performance, for both introverts and extraverts, would be worse in the presence of music and noise than it would be in silence specifically, for all the cognitive tasks, performance would diminish in the presence of background noise, improve with only background music, and be optimal in silence. The findings supported their predictions and showed that cognitive performance in silence was better than performance with background music, which in turn was better than performance with background noise. The results also demonstrated that, overall, performance in silence was best when compared to performance in background noise and music (Dobbs, Furnham, & McClelland, 2011). In contrast, a study conducted by Pool (2002), monitored the distracting effects of background television on homework performance and did not find any significant impairment on homework assignments when students were distracted by television while working on those assignments. These findings indicate that background noise, just like background music impacts cognitive performance in ways that have not been fully understood by researchers.

Although previous research has established that music can either distract or facilitate cognitive task performance, improved performance in the presence of music might be directly related to the type of music listened to (Cockerton, Moore, & Norman, 1997). A study conducted by Hallman, Price, and Katsarou, (2002) supported this argument. In fact, they tested the effect of calming and relaxing music on arithmetic and memory performance tests in children ranging from ages ten to twelve. They found better performance on both tasks in the calming and relaxing music condition when compared with a no-music condition. They also tested these children in an arousing, aggressive, and unpleasant music condition, and the results showed that their performance on both tasks was heavily disrupted and led to a lower level of reported altruistic behavior by the children (Hallman, Price, & Katsarou, 2002). Although these data did not find that calming music enhanced performance, one might imply that this type of music can provide a soothing environment that puts students at ease, facilitating cognitive processing.

The present study considers the effects of two different types of music at varying intensities on cognitive task performance and compared them to tasks performed in silence. It was predicted that tasks performed in silence would yield better results than tasks performed both in the soft music and the loud music conditions, demonstrating that music is a distracter to cognitive performance. Additionally, performance scores were expected to be significantly lower in the presence of loud music at a high intensity, suggesting that both the type of music and the volume at which the music is played are contributors to the distracting effect of music. Finally, performance was predicted to be significantly higher in the presence of soft music compared to loud music.

Methodology

Participants

Thirty-two undergraduate students (twenty-five females, seven males), ranging in age from 20 to 41 years from the University of Maryland, Baltimore County (UMBC) at Shady Grove participated in this study. Participants were selected from a psychology class and received extra credit for their participation as agreed on by the class&rsquos instructor. All students participated on a voluntary basis.

Materials

This study used five different arithmetic tests to measure cognitive performance (Appendix A). The tests consisted of 20 different operations: 5 multiplication, 5 division, 5 addition, and 5 subtraction problems. The order of operations was randomized throughout the tests. No question involved operations with more than a three-digit number. The five tests were similar in difficulty. Loud music was defined as heavy-rock metal music, and the song used in that condition was &ldquoNot Ready to Die&rdquo (Demon Hunters, 2004). Soft music was defined as classical piano-only music, and the piece that was used in that condition was &ldquoMorning Light&rdquo (Beeson, 2004).

Procedures

The study was conducted in rooms assigned by the University of Maryland, Baltimore County (UMBC) at Shady Grove. Participants were given informed consent forms to fill out at the beginning of the experiment and a research participation credit sheet. A repeated-measure design was used in this study. All thirty-two participants were exposed to all five conditions. The researcher explained to participants that music would be played while they solved the questions on the tests. The volume at each music condition was adjusted as the experiment progressed.

The participants were asked to solve five arithmetic tests with twenty different questions on each test. The first test was conducted in the soft music condition at low intensity (Test 1- SM-LO), and the second test, in the loud music condition at low intensity (Test 2-LM-LO). The third test was performed in complete silence (Test 3- SIL). The fourth and fifth tests were conducted in soft music and loud music conditions, respectively, both at high volume intensity (Test 4-SM-HI and Test 5 LM-HI). The participants were allowed sixty seconds to complete each test. There was a twenty second waiting period between each test. The participants were not allowed to use a calculator or any other electronic device to complete the questions on the tests.

Results

This study was conducted in a repeated-measured design therefore, a paired sample t-test was used for the analysis. An alpha level of .05 was used for the analysis. The independent variable was the type of music played at two different levels of intensity: high intensity and low intensity. The dependent variable was the performance score, which was measured in terms of accurate answers obtained in each of the tests. The tests were not graded for completion but for accuracy only.

In agreement with the first hypothesis, performance scores were significantly higher in silence (M= 12.94) than in all four music conditions, intensity levels, and types of music combined (M= 11.99), t(31)= 2.21, p <.05. The second hypothesis was also supported in the study participants obtained significantly higher test scores at low intensity (M= 25.63) than at high intensity of both types of music (M= 22.34), t(31)= 4.75, p <.001. Performance scores were also significantly higher in silence (M= 12.94) than in loud music at high intensity (M= 10.78), t(31) = -2.90, p< .05.

However, there was also no significant difference in test scores between participants in the soft music conditions (M= 23.75) and performance in the loud music conditions (M= 24.22), t(31)= -0.56, p= 0.582.

Discussion

The present study sought to demonstrate the impact of different genres of music played at different volume levels on cognitive performance. In accordance with the first hypothesis, participants performed better in silence than they did in any music conditions. The findings were also in agreement with the second hypothesis. They demonstrated that the performance was significantly worse in the presence of loud music at high intensity. Contrary to the third hypothesis, however, there was no significant difference between the type of music that was played and performance scores. The scores were not significantly higher in the soft music versus the loud music condition. Interestingly, there was no difference when the scores from the soft music at high intensity were compared to scores from the loud music at high intensity.

These results seem to parallel those of Smith and Morris (1977). In their study, they also found that participants performed better on a cognitive processing test while listening to no music than they did while listening to either stimulating or sedative music. They determined that performance is impaired with music and optimized with no music. However, their study revealed that participants performed significantly better while listening to sedative music than they did while listening to stimulating music, whereas the current experiment found no significant difference in test scores between the loud music and soft music conditions.

The third hypothesis suggested that performance would be better in the soft music condition when compared to the loud music condition because it was believed that classical music would provide a positive, soothing, and comfortable environment for the participants due to its relaxing tone that will facilitate information processing. However, that hypothesis was not supported by the results it is important to note that the overall performance was significantly lower in the loud music at high intensity. Based on these results, the presence of lyrics and the consistent use of louder instruments, such as drums, bass and, electric guitar to the heavy metal rock music can be seen as reasons for its distracting effects.

Interestingly, while the findings of this study revealed that it is the intensity of the music rather than the type of music that matters the most when it comes to cognitive performance, it is still noteworthy to point out that scores were significantly higher when participants completed the tests in the silence condition. Through this process, it can be implied that it is easier to process information in the presence of a minimal level of distraction. It can be implied that students should not listen to any music or allow any auditory disturbance while studying to obtain maximum performance level. Students should strive to study and learn in an environment such as the library or a private study room that is as quiet as possible, especially when the material requires higher cognitive processing.

The sample size was the major limitation of this study. Although two of the predictions were supported with this sample, large samples could have provided more reliable significances that could be generalized to the college student population. Due to the limited availability of participants, this study was conducted in a repeated-measured design, which could also be a limiting factor. The sequence in which the tests were given was not randomized throughout the experiment as such, learning effects could account for the improvement in later tests as the study progressed. Future research should strive to change the sequence in which the tests are administered to guarantee that the results obtained are those of the treatment effects and to eliminate or reduce possible learning effects.

The design of the room could also be another limitation to this experiment. Where participants were seated in the room could have had an effect on how the music was heard. Hence, for participants sitting closer to the speakers, the music was louder than those who were sitting on the other side of the room. This variance in volume level may have either positively or negatively affected the results. Although, some of the results from this study showed that the arithmetic problems were a sufficient tool to assess cognitive performance however, they may have been too simple for students on the collegiate level to perform. Besides, there were no mathematical base level assessments conducted prior to the study. Participants with stronger skills could have had a biased advantage, whereas those with lower mathematical skills would have had a biased disadvantage. Future research should plan to design more complex cognitive processing tests, such as memory tests or reading comprehension questions from standardized tests like the GRE or the SAT. This could provide a more accurate depiction of the participants&rsquo cognitive processing abilities.

Results from the current study demonstrated how important it is to consider the effects of distracting music on cognitive performance. It was shown that the volume plays a crucial role and could be more important than the type of music played. However, data from this study has demonstrated that silence seems to be the best environment to maximize performance when engaging in cognitive activity. Classical music was not shown to enhance performance contrary to the study&rsquos expectations. Hence, the direct benefits of listening to music on cognitive processing could be more of a fantasy than a reality.

References

Beeson, Sean. (2004). Morning Light. On Ivory Dreams [CD]. United States: Serenity Studio LLC.

Cockerton, T., Moore, S., & Norman, D. (1997). Cognitive test performance and background music. Perceptual and Motor Skills, 85(3, Pt 2), 1435-1438.

Demon Hunter. (2004). Not ready to die. On Summer of Darkness [CD]. Nashville, United States: Solid State.

Dobbs, S., Furnham, A., & McClelland, A. (2011).The effect of background music and noise on the cognitive test performance of introverts and extraverts. Applied Cognitive Psychology, 25(2), 307&ndash313.

Furnham, A., & Bradley, A. (1997). Music while you work: The differential distraction of background music on the cognitive test performance of introverts and extraverts. Applied Cognitive Psychology, 11(5), 445-455.

Hallman, S., Price, J., & Katsarou, G. (2002). The effects of background music on primary school's pupils' task performance. Educational Studies, 28(2), 111-122.

Pool, M. M. (2002). Distraction effects of background television on homework performance. Noise and Vibration Worldwide, 33(1), 24-28.


The Mozart effect: Classical music and your baby's brain

Listening to classical music may soothe your baby and turn her into a classical fan later in life, but it won't make her smarter. Researchers at Appalachian State University believe that they've debunked what has been called the Mozart effect, a temporary increase in intelligence experienced after listening to a piano sonata written by the famed composer.

The Mozart effect was first reported in 1993 by scientists at the University of California at Irvine, and replicated by the same group in 1995. The study (which did not look at the effect of Mozart on babies) found that college students who listened to a Mozart sonata for a few minutes before taking a test that measured spatial relationship skills did better than students who took the test after listening to another musician or no music at all.

The effect in the students was temporary (it lasted only 15 minutes) and has always been controversial. Nonetheless, the media and politicians hopped on the Mozart effect bandwagon, claiming that listening to the music offered numerous benefits and could alleviate physical and mental health problems.

The notion that babies would be smarter if they listened to classical music was born out of this hype. One year, the governor of Georgia mandated that a classic music CD — which contained the sonata and other pieces and was donated by Sony — be given to all new babies when they left the hospital.

Despite popular sentiment, the evidence that listening to classical music made anybody smarter was tenuous at best. The lead researcher in the original U.C. Irvine study himself said in a Forbes article that the idea that classical music can cure health problems and make babies smarter has no basis in reality, even though he believes that listening to a Mozart sonata can prime the brain to tackle mathematical tasks.

The researchers at Appalachian State University were unable to duplicate the original "Mozart effect" results and found that the presence or absence of classical music didn't significantly affect student performance on tests. Their results were published in the July 1999 issue of the journal Psychological Science.

However, it's widely accepted that listening to music in general, of any kind, is beneficial for child development. The rythym in music can help support the development of innate numeracy skills. Singing with babies supports their speech and language development. Listening to music and dancing with babies and toddlers supports sensory integration and motor skills.


Does listening to music while studying make you a better student?

Is music a distraction or does it help you study better? Source: Shutterstock

Many students around the world feel they need to listen to music while they study or revise, believing it helps them ‘concentrate better’.

Some even say that without music, they can’t revise as it’s too quiet. On the flip side, there are those who find music incredibly distracting and need silence to function best during work or study.

So is it really true that listening to music helps students study better? Or is it really a distraction they’re not aware of? Here’s what science has to say about it.

The Mozart Effect

Can music really help a person study better? Source: Shutterstock

The theory that listening to music, particularly classical music, makes people smarter, was developed in the early 1990s.

It was dubbed the Mozart Effect by Dr Gordon Shaw, who conducted research on the brain capacity for spatial reasoning.

Along with his graduate student Xiodan Leng, he developed a model of the brain and used musical notes to represent brain activity, which resembled that of classical music notes when analysed.

This led them to test the results of classical music on college students’ brains. In 1993, he reported that a group of college students increased their IQ levels as much as nine points as a result of listening to Mozart’s “Sonata for Two Pianos in D Major.”

When it was reported, the media ran with it, proclaiming that ‘classical music helps kids become smarter’.

This led to the birth of development toys involving classical music for children, and advice to pregnant women to place headphones on their bellies for their babies to hear classical music so that they would, purportedly, be born smart.

The Mozart effect was later found to be misleading, and some now call it the Mozart myth.

This is due to a number of reasons. Firstly, college students were only tested on spatial intelligence, which required them to do tasks such as folding a paper or maze-solving, which is just one type of intelligence.

Ten years after the theory became wildly popular, a team of researchers gathered the results from almost 40 studies conducted on the Mozart Effect, and found very little evidence that listening to classical music really does help performance of specific tasks.

They found zero evidence that IQ levels can actually increase when listening to classical music.

Therefore, it has not been proven that listening to classical music, or any music for that matter, actually makes a person smarter or more intelligent.

Music does improve your mood

What about mood? Does music improve moods? Source: Shutterstock

However, listening to music can make you a happier person, as music releases pleasurable emotions and increases dopamine levels.

According to research, listening to music triggers the release of dopamine in our brains. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that promotes feelings of happiness and excitement.

Studies have found that people may be better at solving problems when they are in a positive mood compared to when they are in a negative or neutral mood.

Music that is relaxing also helps students with stress and anxiety, thus leading them to study more efficiently.

Research has found that listening to music actually lowers your cortisol levels. Cortisol is a hormone that is usually responsible for feelings of stress and anxiety.

Since music helps to chill you out, you can also sleep better. When you have better sleep habits, you tend to be less stressed out, which leads to a more productive day of studying.

For long study sessions, background music is helpful as students are more focused and motivated when they are in a good mood, which helps them endure studying for a longer time.

So if you need music to relax and get you in a better mood, which leads to a better quality study session, then it’s worth a try.

It can hinder learning

Could listening to music while studying impair learning? Source: Shutterstock

Several studies show that students who listen to music while completing tasks such as reading and writing tend to be less efficient, and don’t absorb much information compared to those who don’t listen to music.

In addition, loud or ‘angry’ music has negative effects on reading comprehension, as well as mood. This makes them less efficient on the tasks.

Research does suggest that music helps with memorisation. Theories indicate that by being in a positive mood, memory formation works better.

However, students who use music to help them memorise often find it hard to recall the information later as the test is taken in a silent environment. Information recall has been proven to be more effective when it’s done in a similar environment as the one it was memorised in.

Therefore, students who prefer studying in a quiet environment benefit more when it comes to recalling information later on a test.

The type of music does matter

Different strokes for different folks: the type of music you listen to makes all the difference for those who prefer some background noise when studying. Source: Shutterstock

According to a study done at the University of Phoenix, as well as various other studies, listening to music with lyrics is quite distracting while you read, study, and write.

They found that your brain struggles to process the lyrics and focus on your schoolwork at the same time. Basically, you are multi-tasking, which according to research, actually can decrease your IQ by ten points.

It makes sense that if you are using your precious concentration levels on listening and singing along to your favourite tunes, you’re being distracted from focusing on your studies and writing tasks.

However, the Mozart effect may not be a complete myth, after all. Research does suggest that although listening to classical music might not increase a students’ intelligence, it could help students study better.

A study done in France, published in Learning and Individual Differences, found that students who listened to a lecture while classical music was played in the background performed better on a quiz when compared to those who went through the lecture without music.

The researchers gathered that the background music put students at ease, making them more receptive to information.

They wrote, “It is possible that music, provoking a change in the learning environment, influenced the students’ motivation to remain focused during the lecture, which led to better performance on the multiple-choice quiz.”

In summary, if you find listening to music a distraction, then it’s best not to try using it as a way to make you a better or smarter student.

However, if you find it relaxing and puts you in a pleasant mood, then try playing soothing music in the background, without lyrics, so it doesn’t distract you or prevent you from studying efficiently.

Like many learning processes, it really depends on the individual and what works for you.


Music May Make Children Smarter and Definitely Boosts Their Wellbeing

This interest in the relationship between musical aptitude on ability and intelligence has been around for some time. But despite these beliefs being pretty widespread, there is still no conclusive evidence to actually prove that listening to certain types of music really can improve your intelligence.

In 1974, music researchers Desmond Sergeant and Gillian Thatcher said that:

All highly intelligent people are not necessarily musical, but all highly musical people are apparently highly intelligent.

And "apparently" is the key word here, because the evidence regarding musical listening in itself is mixed. Research has shown that listening to music shows an improvement in certain kinds of mental tasks. But these are specifically short-term improvements involving "spatial-temporal reasoning" skills&mdashpuzzle solving type tasks.

Listening vs playing

But while listening to music is all well and good, what about actually playing it? Research that focuses on how or if playing a musical instrument can impact on intelligence, often looks at how learning in one area can lead to improvements in other areas&mdashan idea known as "transfer effects".

This is the idea that learning to play the violin, or the drums, could help children to do better in their spellings or a science project. And this is in part the reason why some parents naturally encourage their children to learn an instrument&mdashthe belief that it will in some way make them more intelligent.

While some studies have shown how musical training can shape brain development and that improvements in small motor skills and general intelligence have been linked to musical training, a recent review suggests that actual evidence supporting the idea of "transfer effects" is limited at present.

But despite these findings, there is still a wealth of evidence suggesting musical learning is beneficial. And with this in mind, drawing from my experience as a professional musician (drummer), music teacher and performing artist, I decided to investigate the effects of individual musical instrument learning on aspects of cognitive and behavioral development.

I also looked at the impact on "socio-emotional" development, that includes the child's experience, expression, and management of emotions, as well as the ability to establish positive and rewarding relationships with others.

All the children who took part in the study had typical school group music lessons, but half of them had also chosen to learn an instrument individually for the first time that year.

The results showed that children who had started individual music lessons developed a better awareness of their "aim" and "force" in relation to their own motor skills, as well as improving their "fluid intelligence"&mdashwhich is the ability to solve new problems, use logic in new situations and identify patterns.

This suggests that musical instrument learning encourages the development of a physical sense of self in relation to the how we use objects in the world around us, as well as developing a specific kind of intelligence that is used in problem solving.

Music and social development

As part of my research, I also wanted to understand whether parents and teachers noticed any changes over the year in terms of the children's socio-emotional well-being. The results showed that the children who had chosen to learn an instrument individually were considered by both their parents and teachers to be less anxious than those who had received only group lessons.

These children were also thought to internalize their problems less compared to the children who had only received the group sessions.

This is also reflected in my research looking at adult musicians, who explained that the "social structures" surrounding musical learning are the bits that they most appreciate, and have had the biggest impact on their lives.

This includes the opportunities to travel, the exchanges of culture among friends around the world, and their ongoing ability to foster creativity in their lives through music.

Musical learning

It is clear then that music can have a big role to play when it comes to children's learning. Not necessarily just in terms of intelligence, but also in term of their physical development and social well-being.

Research also shows how musical learning can help children to apply themselves, as well supporting the processes involved in teamwork and appreciation of working toward shared goals.

Valuing music education includes nurturing the development of these abilities, and these skills and mindsets. That is why developing a culture of creativity and musical learning in our schools should be a key part of children's lives.

Dawn Rose is researcher in the psychology of music and dance at the University of Hertfordshire.


What’s the harm?

Even if it doesn’t make them smarter, classical music certainly won’t hurt an infant’s development. And if it calms a parent down, it will probably also calm the baby down.

Policymakers and parents are better served by well-researched solutions to improving cognitive function, and also important non-cognitive traits like perseverance. Daniel Willingham, a professor of psychology at the University of Virginia, points out that there is ample evidence that children learn more when their parents read to them, and this learning is cumulative. Being read to helps in early learning, which helps build for later learning.

“The research indicating that being read to makes a young child smarter is much, much stronger than the ‘Mozart Effect’ research,” Willingham writes.

Believing that listening to Mozart will make your child smarter is a bit like believing Lumosity will stave off dementia or Baby Einstein will “educate” your child. Both companies had to fess up to the fact that their advertising claims of enhanced intelligence were overstated: Disney-owned Baby Einstein offered refunds to parents whose children did not see improvements and Lumosity paid $2 million to the Federal Trade Commission to settle claims that it’s ”brain-training” effects were exaggerated.

Music is a wonderful gift to give a child. Discipline, perseverance, and pleasure are among the many things they might gain from it. But compulsively playing classical music in hope that it boosts a baby’s IQ later in life strikes the wrong note.


Volume and the Value of Time

As with most forms of expression, it is possible to have too much of a thing. Even if the choice of music is perfect, playing it too loud can be a turnoff for customers. Ideally, customers should not notice the music until the moment they “step outside their conversation,” in the words of The Pitch. If the music is too loud, it feels like management is intruding on their personal space high volume music can unwittingly increase the body’s stress responses. If it’s too soft, it feels conspicuously silent. Music should help consumers think about their purchases it should not blatantly direct them one way or another.

Music can even improve consumers’ moods. Time spent waiting in line or waiting to speak to someone at your business can be felt and remembered more positively if your customers have something agreeable to listen to.

When a person listens to music they like, it creates a perception that the time was well spent even if nothing actually productive happened at the time. The increase in the value of the time means that consumers won’t mind if they are mildly inconvenienced as long as they have music to keep them engaged.

It is hard to overstate to marketers how important music is in predicting consumer behavior. In 2005, for example, the American Psychological Association reported that music was the key sensory factor in making impulse buyers make additional purchases. Researchers found that shoppers who made a purchase they had not planned on making spent $32.89 more when music was playing than impulse shoppers who were not exposed to music during the experiment.


Watch the video: Four Seasons Vivaldi (August 2022).