Sunday, October 5, 2014

Alternatives to the Mozart Effect

A number of years ago some questionable research was used to flog books and other materials under the rubric the "Mozart Effect". Listening to Mozart or, more specifically, having your child listen to Mozart, will make them smarter. My reaction to this was "why Mozart?" If Mozart makes you smarter then surely listening to Bach would make you a lot smarter? But I wish I had thought of this clever idea:

I hope you can read that? Some are quite funny and accurate. Others are merely predictable. Still others are insultingly wrong or at least, waywardly inaccurate. The Shostakovich one is particularly objectionable, whereas the Bruckner one is right on the money.

Assuming that there is some effect on childhood development from listening to music, what do you think the results might be with these musical artists:

  • B. B. King (child grows up always expecting the worse and keeps telling his or her dates that the thrill is gone)
  • Rolling Stones (child is rebellious, always complaining that he can't get no satisfaction)
  • Prince (child is multi-talented but obsessed with the color purple)
  • Frank Zappa ( child develops a sardonic side and a fascination with ugliness)
  • Rihanna (child is remarkably self-centered, constantly trying on new clothes and taking selfies)
This kind of thing quickly becomes tiresome, though, doesn't it? Let's listen to something from one of the new Prince albums:

That sounds just like what he was doing twenty or thirty years ago. Not that there's anything wrong with that.

UPDATE: Just discovered that Jessica Duchen has done this with excellent results:
The Chopin Effect:
Child insists on cladding the living room walls in dove-grey silk to ease piano practice.

The Mendelssohn Effect:
This child seems to speak so easily that he/she is dismissed at school as a brattish know-it-all. Later it turns out that he/she is exhausted because in fact he/she has been putting painstaking hours of revision into every sentence to make it sound effortless.

The Scriabin Effect:
Child starts putting coloured filters over all the lights in the house and reaches a state of desperate over-excitement when they meet and mix. It'll all end in tears.
Follow the link for several other possibilities! 


Rickard Dahl said...

The Mozart effect sadly doesn't work as supposed to (wouldn't it be nice if it did work?). What it does is give better focus, concentration or whatever for short periods of time (I don't know exactly how long but I guess roughly 1h). This can be useful when studying for instance. Another example of a myth is that Omega-3 gives higher intelligence, it doesn't. Actually there was a sort of experiment years back where students were given omega-3 to see if they would perform better at a test (I don't remember exactly the circumstances but I've read about it). However, because of the pressure to perform well they actually performed worse. The mainstream media spread misinformation though (no surprise there) and thus the myth that omega-3 gives higher intelligence was born.

On the other hand, playing instruments, memorizing music (or anything really) and composing most certainly do give good "exercise" for our brains.

Bryan Townsend said...

The activity of playing music, reading notation, concentrating, listening carefully and all those other related skills, does probably help in exercising our brains (or minds, rather). But the real question, and I'm not sure they have tested for this, is do music-specific activities help more (or less) than other types of disciplined activities such as playing video games, playing tennis, memorizing poetry, working puzzles, doing symbolic logic or reading Platonic dialogues? I mean, isn't this the real question? What activities are the most productive?