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Notes 58.3 (2002) 608-610

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Book Review

The Mozart Effect® for Children: Awakening Your Child's Mind, Health, and Creativity with Music

The Mozart Effect® for Children: Awakening Your Child's Mind, Health, and Creativity with Music. By Don Campbell. New York: William Morrow; Harper Collins, 2000. [xiv, 263 p. ISBN: 0-380-97782-6. $25.]

Over the last eight years there has been great interest in the so-called "Mozart effect." The popular press has promulgated the idea that gains in human intelligence can be made by simply listening to the music of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. The attractiveness and popularity of this idea has supported the work of Don Campbell since the early 1980s, and he now holds the trademark for the term "Mozart Effect." Campbell first encountered the special properties of Mozart's music from the ear, nose, and throat specialist and researcher Alfred Tomatis. As early as the late 1950s Tomatis's controversial research and theories about human hearing were developed and later used to treat a wide variety of ailments, from impaired hearing in musicians to autism. He also discovered that the music of Mozart was generally more effective in treating his patients than other kinds of music (Alfred A. Tomatis, The Conscious Ear: My Life of Transformation through Listening, trans. Stephen Lushington and Billie M. Thompson [Barrytown, N.Y.: Station Hill Press, 1991], 159-60).

In research into the organizational principles of the human brain in the 1980s, Gordon Shaw and Xiaodan Leng mapped computer-generated, spatial-temporal sequences of memory patterns from Shaw's theoretical model of brain organization onto music and noticed that different memory patterns resembled different styles of music (Gordon L. Shaw, Keeping Mozart in Mind [San Diego: Academic Press, 2000], xiv). From this they postulated that "music training for young children (when their brains are developing the most) would enhance their ability to do spatial-temporal reasoning, which is important in [End Page 608] doing math and science." Shaw also read of another experiment demonstrating "that 4-month-old infants have a remarkable preference for hearing Mozart sonatas as they were written as compared to 'unnatural' versions" (C. L. Krumhansl and P. W. Jusczyk, "Infants' Perception of Phrase Structure in Music," Psychological Science 1 [1990]: 70-73, as cited in Shaw, p. 31).

This led to the 1993 "Mozart effect" study by Shaw and Frances Rauscher (F. H. Rauscher, G. L. Shaw, and K. N. Ky, "Music and Spatial Task Performance," Nature no. 365 [1993]: 611). In an experiment, a group of college students listened to the first movement of the Sonata for Two Pianos in D major, K. 448, chosen for its symmetry and organization. The students were then given one of three items from the Stanford-Binet IQ test measuring spatial-temporal reasoning: paper folding and cutting, pattern analysis, and matrices. Only the paper folding and cutting test showed a statistically significant improvement for those who listened to the Mozart sonata compared to the control subjects who did not. Further experiments included one by Rauscher in which the sonata was played to rats in utero and two months after birth. The rats who listened to Mozart navigated a maze significantly better than the controls (F. H. Rauscher, K. D Robinson, and J. J. Jens, "Improved Maze Learning through Early Music Exposure in Rats," Neurological Research 20 [1998]: 427- 32). Other researchers attempted to replicate the original study with mixed and inconclusive results.

The reaction to the study in the popular media was rapid and led to the mistaken conclusion that listening to the music of Mozart could be used by educators to induce an increase in general intelligence in children. All of this interest in the "Mozart effect" was based on an experiment--not consistently replicated--that showed increases in scores on the paper folding and cutting portion of the IQ test performed by college students (not children) using only one piece by Mozart. Steven M. Demorest and Steven J. Morrison summarize the "Mozart effect" studies and provide an excellent discussion...


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