Does listening to Mozart make you smarter?

Updated: May 18, 2010, 00:00 AM IST

London: Scientists have long been debating the alleged performance-enhancing effects of hearing classical music. However, researchers in Vienna have found no evidence that listening to Mozart can improve one`s cerebral capacity.

Researchers Jakob Pietschnig, Martin Voracek and Anton K. Formann from the University of Vienna found no evidence that listening to Mozart would improve intelligence.

In 1993, a finding by University of California Irvine psychologist Frances H. Rauscher and her associates, published in Nature, showed that exposure to Mozart boosted spatial task performance among college students.

Mozart`s 1781 sonata for two pianos in D major (KV 448) supposedly enhanced students` cognitive abilities through mere listening.

Scientific articles only rarely attract such public attention and excitement as was the case for Rauscher`s publication.

The New York Times wrote that listening to Mozart would give college-bound students an edge in the SAT. What is more, other commentators hailed Mozart`s music as a magic bullet to boost children`s intelligence.

SAT or Scholastic Assessment Test is a standardised test for college admissions in the US.

In the course of this hype, then Georgia governor Zell Miller even issued a bill in 1998, ensuring that every mother of a newborn would receive a complimentary classical music CD.

In the scientific community, however, Rauscher`s finding was met with scepticism, as researchers around the world found it surprisingly hard to replicate.

Pietschnig, Voracek and Formann`s comprehensive review study synthesises the entirety of the scientific record on the topic.

Retrieved for this systematic investigation were about 40 independent studies, published ones as well as a number of unpublished academic theses from the US and elsewhere, totalling more than 3,000 participants.

The researchers` key finding is clear-cut: based on cumulated evidence, there remains no support for gains in spatial ability specifically due to listening to Mozart.

These findings were published in the journal Intelligence.