Requiem For Mozart Effect?

A 1993 study that found that college students who listened to a particular Mozart piano sonata performed better on certain tests triggered considerable debate.

But the big question being debated among psychologists is: Can listening to music, especially classical music, make children smarter? CBS News Correspondent Elizabeth Kaledin reports.


Dubbed "The Mozart Effect," the finding led to brisk sales of Mozart CDs for babies and had mothers like Amy Vena hoping for the best. "I listened to a Mozart CD all through my pregnancy," she says.

As one watches one of Ken Guilmartin's Music Together classes, there seems little doubt about the positive impact of music on children.

"I can tell from the eyes of the children in my classroom who are babies, 18-month-olds, 3- and 4-year- olds, that music matters to them," says Guilmartin, founder of the music program.

But Harvard University researcher Christopher Chabris published research in the new issue of the journal Nature saying The Magic Flute is no magic pill for intelligence.

Says Chabris: "There's no Mozart Effect for abstract reasoning or general intelligence. There might be a small benefit for spatial-temporal tasks but it's still not a large enough benefit that we can say it's not due to chance."

The author of the original study, Frances Raucher of the University of Wisconsin at Oshkosh, claims her results have been misrepresented: "I think there have been a lot of misunderstandings out there. First and foremost, that listening to Mozart is going to make you smarter; that's obviously not the case."

Child development experts say it's important not to let the scientific debate drown out the inherent value of music. Child neurologist Dr. Leon Zacharowicz says, "It would be a shame if we concluded from this study that we have to turn off our CDs and get back to reading, writing and arithmetic."

Some parents have no plans to do that and say scientific claims that Mozart will make their children smarter are not as important as the knowledge that having music in their lives will make them richer.

©1999, CBS Worldwide Inc., All Rights Reserved

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