The Mozart Effect
The Mozart experimentation sought to determine that there is a causal relationship between the cognition of music and that of abstract operations including but not limited to spatial reasoning and mathematical calculations. The hypothesis of the experiment is that exposure to musical experiences over a short duration can have a positive influence on spatial reasoning and conducting mathematical operations.
The independent variable in the research is the music that the students listened to shortly before undertaking the IQ spatial examinations. The dependent variable in the experiment is the student scores. The scores were dependent on the exposure to musical influences.
Controlled variables in an experiment are the quantities that a scientist or researcher will hold constant while carefully monitoring the effect of the independent variables on the dependent variables. Time is a controlled variable in the experiment. The students are exposed to 10 minutes of the Mozart piece, 10 minutes to the relaxation tape, and 10 minutes to complete silence before the commencement of the IQ tests. Another controlled variable is the IQ tests given to the students after the 10-minute exposure to silence and music. The tests consisted of a paper folding and cutting test, a multiple choice matrices test, and a pattern analysis test. The tests are the same after every exposure. The control was necessary to avoid inconsistencies in the test results.
The evidence the researchers present is the variation in test scores after exposure or lack of exposure to musical inferences. The scores show that the students improved their spatial and mathematical reasoning in each of the tests after exposure to music. Their test results remained static when there was nothing to listen to 10 minutes prior to the tests. Thus, participating in a music conditioning before undertaking the tests improved their cognitive abilities in performing abstract operations. Furthermore, the test scores show that the students performed much better in the tests after listening to Mozart music than after listening to the repetitive music.
The evidence is empirical or observable because the test results were compared against each of the independent variables. The researchers saw a marked improvement in test scores after listening to the Mozart piece. They also compared the test scores between the Mozart piece and the repetitive music and found students performed better after exposure to the former piece of music as compared to the results of the latter independent variable.
Explanation of Findings
Rauscher, Shaw, and Ky (1993) argue that hearing complex music arouses the cortical patterns in the brain. These patterns are the same ones that are used in spatial reasoning. In addition, the perception of music is carried out in the right hemisphere of the brain. The hemisphere is also where special cogitation and mathematical sequencing operations are carried out. Therefore, the perception of complex music excites the firing patterns causing an increase in abstract reasoning in the hemisphere for a brief period.
The researchers argue that relaxation music has the tendency to disrupt abstract reasoning. As seen from the results, students scored lower in the IQ tests after listening to the ten-minute repetitive music. Similarly, silence before undertaking a test can also disrupt a student’s abstract reasoning. On the other hand, complex music such as the Mozart piece can positively influence abstract reasoning albeit for a short duration. The enhancing effect of the complex music is only temporal as it only lasts for the 10-15 minutes during which the students were undertaking the IQ tests.
The Mozart Effect Analysis
Merit for the Study
According to Jenkins (2001), there is merit in the study undertaken by Rauscher et al (1993). The author believes that contrary to what critics assert enjoyment and musical appreciation could not be the basis of the improvement in abstract reasoning. In consecutive studies, Rauscher and his counterparts conclusively showed that complex music resulted in an increase in spatial reasoning.
The original researchers used rats instead of students and showed that exposure to six months of Mozart in utero increased their ability to negotiate a maze after they were born. The rats that were exposed to the complex music were able to complete the maze test faster and with fewer errors than the other three groups of rats that were used in the comparative analysis.
Jenkins (2001) believes that the researchers were correct in their original and consecutive experiments. He explains that music perception and spatial reasoning occur within the same area of the brain. Studies have shown that listening to music activates many areas in the brain including the area where spatial reasoning occurs. To put it in another way, music perception involves processing in different parts of the brain from the prefrontal cortex to the temporal gyrus. Different networks are interconnected during the processing of music. Some of the areas duly activated due to the interconnection during music perception will include the area concerned with spatial reasoning.
Another reason for the merit of the experiment is the long-term effects of music on the brain. Although, Rauscher et al (1993) experimented with short duration exposure to music, the research has led many to believe that music can have a long-term effect on brain development. After their experiment, scientists were curious to understand if complex music could have a long-term effect on the brain.
One experiment used pre-school children rather than adults to determine the long-term effects of music. The children were given piano lessons for six months where they studied different techniques including sight reading, and playing from recall. The result was that by the end of the program, all students could play simple melodies by Mozart and Beethoven. After the program, the students took spatial-temporal reasoning tests. Amazingly, these children scored 30% higher in these tests than others of the same age who had been taking computer lessons for the same duration or those who had not received special training at all.
The final merit of the experiment is that it enabled scientists to understand how music affects the electroencephalographic firing patterns in the brain. The study led to investigations on the brain pattern of electric discharge after exposure to certain types of music. In one experiment, the researchers found that listening to a Mozart sonata for 10 minutes resulted in an increase in synchrony of electrical discharges by the left temporoparietal and the right frontal areas of the brain. Listening to a short story does not have the same kind of effect on the brain. Furthermore, the study conclusively showed that exposure to the sonata resulted in an increase in beta power in the temporal and right frontal regions of the brain (Jenkins, 2001).
Individual Differences in Spatial Ability
The study conducted by Rauscher et al (1993) does not take into account the individual differences in spatial ability. Studies have shown that individuals show slight differences in spatial reasoning. Differences in brain patterns could have been a major cause for the divergent test scores exhibited after the experiment. The study did not also take into account the age of the participants in the music experiment. A more comprehensive study would have tested how age differences could have contributed to differences in test scores after the exposure to the Mozart sonata.
Furthermore, the study did not take into account differences in gender when it came to understanding the effects of music on brain patterns. From the experiment conducted, we are not aware of whether sex can have an impact on how the brain perceives music or conducts spatial reasoning. Perhaps the brains in the two sexes have different firing patterns that could result in a discrepancy in the test scores due to a variation in music perception and spatial reasoning.
Making the Results more Generalizable
Generalizability is the extension of the findings and conclusions in a study from a sample population to a general population. The dependability of such an extension is not considered absolute but its probability can be proven statistically. There are various ways that the researchers can make the results of the Mozart effect more generalizable.
For starters, the researchers should have increased the sample population. Quantitative research is the best way to generalize the findings and conclusions of a study. Thus, the greater the sample population, the easier it is for the researchers to generalize the results. The reason for this is that there will be more quantitative data to analyze from a larger sample population.
Secondly, the researchers should have diversified the sample population. They should have considered population attributes such as sex, age, prior exposure to Mozart, and educational backgrounds in the research. Diversification of this nature would have resulted in a spread that could be applied to the general population. These attributes are inherent in the general population and would definitely have an impact on how they responded to the IQ tests. For the results to be more generalizable, the sample population should also represent the aforementioned attributes.
Jenkins, J.S. (2001). The Mozart Effect. The Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine, 94(4): 170-172.
Rauscher, F.H., Shaw, G.L., & Ky, K.N. (1993). Music and Spatial Task Performance. Nature 1993; 365-611.