The Effect of Mozart on Spatial Ability
Pennsylvania Highlands Community College
November 20, 2010
Dr. Barbara Mitchell
Since 1993, when the Mozart effect was first introduced, people have been asking, does listening to Mozart truly improve my spatial ability? Should I play Mozart for my children? Should I listen to Mozart if I’m pregnant? The answer to each of these questions, is no. Seventeen years ago Rauscher, Shaw and Ky (1993) tested the idea that listening to Mozart increased spatial IQ, and their findings supported this. Since then, hundreds of studies for further testing on the hypothesis have been completed, all turning up negative for a Mozart effect. The Effect of Mozart on Spatial Ability
Researchers, Frances H. Rauscher, Gordon L. Shaw, and Katherine N. Ky (1993), formed a hypothesis; that hypothesis was that listening to Mozart would increase visual-spatial intelligence IQ. Visual-spatial intelligence IQ is understood to be the ability to “think in pictures and need to create vivid mental images to retain information” (Gardner, 2003). Since then the topic has been very controversial. People, especially expectant mothers, are all wondering, is it true?
Since the original experiment in 1993, hundreds of studies have been conducted to either try to reinforce the idea, or disprove it. Although some researchers have tried to back up the Mozart effect, most have failed. Very few have been able to successfully replicate Rauscher, Shaw, and Ky’s (1993) experiment and obtain similar data. Several hypotheses have been formed to predict why the results are so contradicting. The most commonly excepted is the idea that spatial task results are based on musical preference.
Many doubts arise when it comes to the belief that listening to Mozart will increase visual and spatial intelligence, commonly referred to as the Mozart effect. The following paper disputes the existence of such an effect, and suggests other explanations for enhanced performance on spatial task questions after listening to music. Study 1 The Mozart Effect: An Artifact of Preference
In 1999, Kristin M. Nantais and E. Glenn Schellenberg performed a study to test their hypothesis that the Mozart Effect is only an outcome of the participants’ predilection of testing conditions. Their goal was to duplicate the experiment conducted by Rauscher, Shaw, and Ky in 1993, so that they could accurately disprove the preexisting claims that Mozart advances spatial abilities. Study 1 Method
A total of 84 participants were gathered to conduct two separate experiments; 56 participants were used in Experiment 1, and 28 were used in experiment 2. In both experiments, participants partook in both the music and control conditions, on separate days. In the music condition, the participants listened to either pieces by Mozart or Schubert for a ten minute period. Directly after the music conditions were experienced, participants completed a test that consisted of 17 questions. During the time in which participants experienced the control, they either sat in silence for ten minutes (Experiment 1), or listened to ten minutes of a short story (Experiment 2). Following the control conditions, similar tasks were completed. Study 1 Results
Results from Experiment 1 showed that scores were found to be higher after listening to music, rather than sitting in silence. Experiment 2 found that performance level was determined by the condition preference of the participant. The findings from both Experiments 1 and 2 support Nantais and Schellenberg’s hypothesis. Participants who preferred Mozart scored considerably higher after listening to the Mozart piece, than after listening to the short story, and vice versa. Study 1 Discussion
The spatial abilities of participants after listening to music, compared to sitting in silence, noticeably increased, whether they...
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