The to the first movement “allegro con

The transient improvement
of performance on spatial tasks in standardized tests after exposure to the
first movement “allegro con spirito” of the Mozart sonata for two pianos in D
major is discussed to as the Mozart effect since its first observation by
Rauscher, Shaw, and Ky (1993). These findings turned out to be amazingly hard
to replicate, thus leading to an abundance of conflicting results. In the
following paper, I will discuss the history of this effect and the noticeably
higher overall effect in studies performed by Rauscher and colleagues than in
studies performed by other researchers, indicating systematically moderating
effects of lab affiliation (Pietschnig, Voracek & Formann, 2010).

Mozart Effect

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Some
researchers claim the Mozart Effect has become in recent years “a scientific
legend” among the culture of the masses, which is expressed in the widely
held belief that listening to Mozart improves intelligence, a belief which
constitutes a distortion to the scientific context from which it stems. It is
important to note that the primary studies in this field were conducted on a
population of students and their performance enhancement was short-term as well
as focused in spatial abilities (Bangerter & Heath, 2004).

          Out of the controversy regarding the effect’s
reliability grew two main approaches – the neurological approach and the
arousal approach. Supporters of the neurological approach claim that listening
to Mozart sonatas causes neurological changes in brain areas involved in
spatial perception (Leng & Shaw, 1991). Oppositely, supporters of the
arousal approach attribute the improvement in performance to the emotional
arousal triggered by listening to music, and thus the change in mood is the
source of performance enhancement (Steele, Bass, & Crook, 1999). However, most
of the studies on the Mozart Effect, exclusively implemented classical music.
Some people might feel that Mozart’s sonata is not to their taste, experience
low arousal which might bring to a decrease in performance on the spatial task,
and similarly people who prefer quiet might feel higher arousal than those who
the quiet wearies. In another experiment, where participants were asked to
report on their level of preference to the stimulus they were exposed to –
listening to a Mozart sonata versus listening to a recording of a Stephen King
story – it appeared that higher performances on a spatial task were related to
a high level of reported preference, whether to the sonata or the story
(Nantais & Schellenberg ,1999). It seems that it matters less which type of
auditory stimulus is presented, rather than the way in which the listener
perceives the stimulus.

            A recent study clearly demonstrates
that there is only little support for a specific Mozart effect in published as
well as in unpublished work. Although results indicate a positive, significant
effect of exposure to the Mozart sonata compared to no stimulus at all on
spatial task performance, observed effects were only small in size. Moreover, a
striking result of mentioned analysis is the large significant difference in
overall effects of studies performed by researchers affiliated with labs of
Rauscher or Rideout and studies performed by researchers affiliated with other
labs for samples exposed to the Mozart sonata and samples exposed to no
stimulus at all. Effect sizes were more than three times higher for published
studies performed by labs with Rauscher or Rideout affiliations than for
published studies performed by other labs (Pietschnig, Voracek &
Formann, 2010).

Future
studies and personal opinion

In conclusion,
there seems to be a large difference of effects between different labs
performing the studies, accounting for the distorted perception of the actual
size of the effect. Late studies recommend in fact that, there is little left
that would support the notion of a specific enhancement of spatial task
performance through exposure to the Mozart sonata (Pietschnig, Voracek &
Formann, 2010). In my own personal opinion, after reading some of the recent
and historical litarture regarding the Mozart Effect I tend to belive that
future studies should try to recognize the mechanism of music (no specific) and
traits theories and their connection to spatial taks abilities. It would be
intresting to know more about the influence of music when put together with a
certain trait beacuase it may help to build future therapies. For example, if a
male patient is recognzied with extraversion personality, therpaist will know
which kind of music will suit him better.