Ever played classical music while you were pregnant or while the baby was growing up in the hopes that he will grow up brainy? He could grow up as someone who appreciates classical music, but it alone won't make him a genius.
In the early 90s, people believed playing classical music would make a baby smart, thanks to a study that found a group of college students, who listened to Mozart’s "Sonata for Two Pianos in D Major," faring better in a spatial IQ test compared to when they didn’t.
The study, which was published in Nature magazine in 1993, was conducted by researchers Frances Rauscher, Gordon Shaw and Katherine Ky of the Center for Neurobiology of Learning and Memory in the University of California in the United States. They studied 36 college students from the university and asked them to perform spatial temporal tasks after listening to 10 minutes each of Mozart’s sonata, a relaxation tape, and silence.
Afterward, the group was given a test to measure spatial IQ (like recognizing patterns or folding paper), and after listening to Mozart, they scored an average of 8 to 9 IQ points higher than after 10 minutes of silence. But more interesting is the fact that the cognitive gains lasted only about 10 to 15 minutes.
"It's very important to note that we did not find effects for general intelligence," Rauscher says in an interview with NPR back in 2010, "just for this one aspect of intelligence. It's a small gain, and it doesn't last very long."
While the study was not conducted on babies, it sparked a frenzy in the United States. “Mozart makes you smart” was the trending topic, and the news spread all over the world.
Since then, several studies have sought to debunk the prevailing theory (in 2010, researchers at the University of Vienna found no evidence that listening to Mozart’s music enhanced cognitive abilities in any way). But up to this day, a lot of people still think playing classical music, or even any other music that you enjoy will make you or your babies more intelligent.
Why? We love “instant solutions.” Can’t get kids to eat? Give them this. Can’t put them to sleep? Do this instead. Want them to grow up smarter? Open Spotify and find a classical music playlist.
Of course, we don't want to dismiss music of any kind. Research has shown a link between music and the stimulation of the neurons in an unborn baby's brain. A study in 1999 by the Harvard Graduate School of Education found that music had a small effect on spatial reasoning skills, which is most probably an effect of “intermittent, small, positive ‘enjoyment arousal’ effect, according to Quartz. Another study found that 10 minutes of Mozart’s "String Quintet in D Major" improved the ability to predict paper shapes, and listening to pop music can be even more effective. And we can all agree that music can undoubtedly affect our moods.
There are other ways to boost your baby’s brain power. Reading to your baby while pregnant can help them process and learn information from the outside world. And just by talking to them you can already make them better learners.
Should you still make your babies listen to classical music? Of course. But it shouldn’t become a measure of your child’s intelligence. Instead, you should look at music as a way to set up your child for success — learning music, and not just listening to it, will teach your child significant traits like hard work, focus, and discipline. It will also nurture his creativity and boost his confidence.