Does Music Make Your Child Smarter?
(by Carmen Ziarkowski)
Recent articles have convinced many in the public that listening
to a few minutes of Mozart or other complex music daily will
increase your child's IQ. Before we delve into this belief we need
to first see what one's IQ really means and does it really measure
one's mental abilities? What is the I.Q. Test?
An Intelligence Quotient measures the ability of a person to
function in complex social situations relative to others of the
same age using questions that test one's skills, mental abilities
and academic achievements. An IQ test gives a good overall view of
an individual's general intelligence. In other words, the
Intelligence Quotient Test (IQ) is the "mental" age divided by
one's chronological age.
It has been shown that there is a strong correlation between IQ
levels and the speed at which one processes information. The
following are guidelines used by educators when dealing with gifted
children. (Interestingly, 68 percent of the population scores an IQ
within the interval of 85-115. MG - Moderately Gifted (IQ 130 -
145) (2 standard deviations from the mean)
HG - Highly Gifted = (IQ 145 - 160) (3 standard deviations from
EG - Extremely Gifted = (IQ 160 - 180) (4 standard deviations
from the mean)
PG - Profoundly Gifted = (IQ 180+) (5 or more standard
deviations from the mean)
(One standard deviation is 15 points)
It is no secret that integrating an "arts" program into your
school schedule has far reaching implications. Across the board and
without exception, studies have drawn conclusions that implementing
arts into your school day improves the performance of your children
across all other academic subjects. In particular math scores
improve substantially when children are exposed to music over a
period of time. While we can't promise an IQ of 180 the following
is a list of some of the research done with music.
What listening to music has shown
The following studies used instrumental music, which included
classical, "easy listening" or familiar melodies.
In one particular study, 21% of eighth grade music students from
low economic households scored high in math compared to 11% of
non-music low economic households. By grade 12, these figures were
33% and 16%, respectively.
In another study by the same experimenters, it was noted "… that
children are more engaged and cognitively involved in school when
the arts are part of, or integrated into, the curriculum.
Students (six to nine year olds) dramatically improve reading
and language development as they were exposed to music while
learning new words 1
In a study reported in Nature, five to seven year olds were
subject to a seven month training period where their visual
-spatial abilities were assessed. The results suggested that music
improved reading and math skills which motivated the children to
move on to more difficult tasks to acquire other difficult skills.
Children who take music lessons (keyboard in this study) improve
spatial-temporal areas of the brain. The study compared children
who took computer lessons with children who took piano lessons. The
results demonstrated in the children who took piano lessons, there
was an improvement in the neural circuitry in locations in the
brain that are not associated with music. It was proposed that
curricula which rely upon spatial-temporal reasoning such as
mathematics and science could greatly improve by exposure to music.
Sleep improves and pain decreases in post-operative subjects as
a result of music intervention on patients after surgery. 4
College students who had been given musical training before the
age of 12 significantly remembered more vocabulary words than those
students who had no music training.5
Having music in the background while one studies greatly
improves ability to recall the information studied. 6
Music improves exercise. A study reported in the International
Journal of Sports Medicine indicates that there is a decrease in
heart rate, blood pressure and amount of lactic acid secreted in
subjects who exercised on a treadmill while listening to music.
This decrease indicates that music may reduce muscle tension and
stress while exercising. 7
A study was undertaken at the University of Sweden where 12,675
people (ages 16-74) were tested in 1982 and again in 1992. Other
variables were studied as well. As expected those who partook in
smoking and lack of exercise had higher mortality rates. It was
found that those who participated in cultural events such as music
or reading and/or played an instrument (or sang) greatly improved
their health and longevity. 8
There seems to be a connection between heavy metal/rap and
psychosocial turmoil. According to a report in the journal,
Adolescence, the authors studied the relationship between listening
to heavy metal/ rap and poor behavior. Their conclusions pointed to
the thought that heavy metal/rap led to poor behavior and
psychological problems at home and in society. More research is
needed on this study because it could be that this behavior leads
to listening to this kind of music and not the reverse. 9
What is the Mozart Effect?
In 1993, an experiment10 was done where college students were
asked to listen to Mozart's Sonata for Two Pianos, K 488) before
taking a spatial IQ Test. The study was repeated in 1995 with the
same clinicians with the exact results. As a result of these two
experiments much misinformation regarding the Mozart Effect
permeated throughout the public. Listening to ten minutes a day of
Mozart will not necessarily make your child's SAT math scores jump
100 points. It will not necessarily allow your child to win on
neither Jeopardy nor your state's chess tournaments.
The following excerpt is taken from The Mozart Effect: A Small
Part of the Big Picture by Norman M. Weinberger
In 1993, Frances Rauscher, Gordon Shaw and Katherine Ky asked
whether brief exposure to certain music could increase a cognitive
ability. Thirty-six college students were divided into three groups
which spent ten minutes in one of three conditions: listening to
(1) a piano sonata by Mozart (sonata for two pianos in D, K 448),
(2) a tape of relaxation instructions or (3) silence. They were
then tested on spatial/temporal reasoning. The measurements of
spatial/temporal (S/T) reasoning were obtained using subtests from
a standard intelligence battery (group) of tests, the
Stanford-Binet Test. The important subtest was a paper folding and
cutting task (PF/C). The subject has to imagine that a single sheet
of paper has been folded several times and then various cut-outs
are made with a scissors. The task is to correctly predict the
pattern of cut-outs when the paper is unfolded.
The results? The authors found significantly higher scores for
the Mozart group than for the relaxation or the silence groups. The
differences translated into spatial IQ scores for the Mozart group
that were 8-9 points higher than the other two groups. However, the
effect was very brief; it did not last beyond 10-15 minutes
The authors did not say that the effects would be limited to
Mozart's music but did think that the benefits to Spatial Temporal
reasoning would require complex rather than repetitive music.
However no further definitions of complexity were presented. Also,
the authors did not claim that the effects would be found for other
aspects of intelligence, such as verbal reasoning or short-term
memory, but suggested that these be tested.
What listening to Mozart's piece (K488) did was to "temporarily"
increase in spatial IQ (reasoning.) The following is a concise
definition of spatial: Spatial abilities are the perceptual and
cognitive abilities that enable a person to deal with spatial
relations, in other words the visualization and orientation of
objects in space. Put simply spatial skills assess your ability to
manipulate 3D objects by flipping and rotating them.
Spatial intelligence questions test raw intelligence without the
influence of prior knowledge and as such performance on this scale
is indicative of general intelligence. At a first glance, such
questions may appear daunting but the trick is not to give up too
quickly. Often a second look at the problem will reveal a different
approach, and a solution will appear because the brain has been
given the opportunity to process information further.
This study has caused much public confusion. While the results
of this study did not prove that listening to Mozart for ten
minutes a day will increase your child's IQ by 10 or more points,
it did demonstrate that there was a temporary increase in the
capacity for spatial skills acquisition involving short-term
memory. There was no meaningful long-lasting increase in
intelligence. For any real benefits from music one must be involved
in music study and/or music making.
The following results were reported by Drs. Judith Burton,
Robert Horowitz and Hal Abeles, of the Center for Arts Education
Research at Columbia University . This study included 2,046
children in grades 4, 5, 7, and 8 in 12 public schools in New York
, Connecticut , Virginia and South Carolina . (These are just some
of the findings for a more thorough look and detailed observations
please refer to references below.)
Music influences: Expression: better able to express their
thoughts and ideas to teachers and peers and to do so in different
Risk-taking: they were more willing to take a risk, showing an
increased willingness to try new things, use new materials and
approaches, even at the risk of failing; more willing to risk
expressing their own novel ideas to peers and parents
Cooperation: they worked better with peers and with teachers
Synthesis: better at unifying divergent thoughts, feeling and
Higher self-concept in reading, math and general academics
Teachers rated them as having more self-confidence.
Solutions: a greater number of ideas or approaches to solve
Originality: more innovative approaches to solving problems
Elaboration: mentally constructing more detail in formulating
Resistance to Closure: tendency to keep an open mind, to avoid
rushing to premature judgments or being satisfied too quickly with
a possible solution
The ability to express ideas and feelings opening and
The ability to form relationships among different items and
arrange them to solve problems. The ability to imagine a problem
from different points of view and work toward a resolution.
The ability to organize thoughts and ideas into meaningful
The ability to engage in sustained and focused attention.
As shown by many research studies, instrumental, classical (and
in some cases music you are familiar with, excluding heavy metal or
rap) music influences positively cognitive development; language
development, reading-readiness and reading; verbal abilities;
abstract conceptual thinking and reasoning; creativity and
originality; memory; play improvisation; motor development and
coordination; positive attitudes toward school, improved personal
and social adjustment and stress reduction. To see any results one
must dedicate time and energy into pursuing music.
1 Bygrave, P.L. (1995-1996). Development of receptive vocabulary
skills through exposure to music. Bulletin of the Council for
Research in Music Education no. 127, Winter, pg. 28-34]
2 Nature 381, 284 ( 23 May 1996 ) Scientific Correspondence
(from the Nature Archive: January 1987 - December 1996)
3 Rauscher, F. H., Shaw, G.L., Levine, L.J., Wright, E.L.,
Dennis, W.R., Newcomb, R.L. (1997). Music training causes long-term
enhancement of preschool children's spatial-temporal reasoning.
Neurological Research, 19: 2-8.
4 Zimmerman, L., Nieveen, J., Barnason, S., Schmaderer, M.
(1996). The effects of music interventions on postoperative pain
and sleep in coronary artery bypass graft (CABG) patients.
Scholarly Inquiry for Nursing Practice, Summer, 10:171-174.
5 Chan, A.S., Ho, Y-C. & Cheung, M-C. (1998). Music training
improves verbal memory. Nature, 396:128.
6 Cockerton, T., Moore , S., & Norman, D. (1997). Cognitive
test performance and background music. Perceptual and Motor Skills,
7 Szmedra, L., & Bacharach, D.W. (1998) Effect of music on
perceived exertion, plasma lactate, norepinephrine and
cardiovascular hemodynamics during treadmill running. International
Journal of Sports Medicine, 19:32-37.
8 British Medical Journal, 1996, vol. 313, pgs. 1577-1580
9 Kevin J. took and David S. Weiss, 1994, Adolescence, 29:
10 Rauscher, F.H., Shaw, G.L. and Ky, K.N. (1993) Music and
spatial task performance. Nature, 365:611.
Take an IQ test!
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necessarily those of Color the Classics