What is Big Think?  

We are Big Idea Hunters…

We live in a time of information abundance, which far too many of us see as information overload. With the sum total of human knowledge, past and present, at our fingertips, we’re faced with a crisis of attention: which ideas should we engage with, and why? Big Think is an evolving roadmap to the best thinking on the planet — the ideas that can help you think flexibly and act decisively in a multivariate world.

A word about Big Ideas and Themes — The architecture of Big Think

Big ideas are lenses for envisioning the future. Every article and video on bigthink.com and on our learning platforms is based on an emerging “big idea” that is significant, widely relevant, and actionable. We’re sifting the noise for the questions and insights that have the power to change all of our lives, for decades to come. For example, reverse-engineering is a big idea in that the concept is increasingly useful across multiple disciplines, from education to nanotechnology.

Themes are the seven broad umbrellas under which we organize the hundreds of big ideas that populate Big Think. They include New World Order, Earth and Beyond, 21st Century Living, Going Mental, Extreme Biology, Power and Influence, and Inventing the Future.

Big Think Features:

12,000+ Expert Videos

1

Browse videos featuring experts across a wide range of disciplines, from personal health to business leadership to neuroscience.

Watch videos

World Renowned Bloggers

2

Big Think’s contributors offer expert analysis of the big ideas behind the news.

Go to blogs

Big Think Edge

3

Big Think’s Edge learning platform for career mentorship and professional development provides engaging and actionable courses delivered by the people who are shaping our future.

Find out more
Close

Stop Subjecting Your Baby To Mozart! (Give Her Drama Lessons Instead)

October 30, 2011, 12:00 AM
-4

What's the Big Idea?

Every parent wants their child to be smart, and it is commonly believed that there is an association between music and cognitive ability.

Classical music, and Mozart in particular, have been thought to improve memory and increase intelligence, due to studies such as one originally published in the journal Nature in 1993. Researchers at the University of California at Irvine found a temporary enhancement in spatial-temporal reasoning after students in their study listened to Mozart. These results were widely reported, widely misconstrued, and came to be known as "The Mozart Effect." According to neuroscientist Sam Wang, the idea that passively listening to Mozart makes you smarter was "taken to an extreme where pregnant women put speakers on their bellies and think that this is somehow good for a baby's development."

Unfortunately, according to Wang, "passive listening to music appears to have no effect on cognitive ability." On the other hand, learning to play a musical instrument (like Mozart, for instance, who began to play the harpsichord at three years old) "is more effective in influencing children's brains." According to Wang, learning to play a musical instrument activates many circuits in the brain, teaches children to appreciate music, and also teaches a skill "you’ll have throughout your whole life." It won't, however, improve your math scores.

According to Wang, one possible reason people believe there’s an association between music and math is due to the belief that "good habits travel in packs." In other words, if you observe that someone has one good habit and then another good habit, "you can’t tell which of those habits is causative and which is the effect." So it may be that children from affluent households on average are better at math. Children from affluent households also are more likely to take music lessons. There's some difficulty in knowing whether music lessons caused the improvement in math ability, or vice versa, or whether some common factor caused both of them.

What's the Significance?

Wang points to a carefully controlled study in which the psychologist Glenn Schellenberg gave parents the opportunity to enroll their children in art lessons. Schellenberg separated them very carefully into groups. Some children took music lessons, others received drama lessons, while others were placed on a waiting list. Schellenberg observed a small improvement in math abilities in the music students versus the ones who did not get music lessons.

However, there was also an unanticipated benefit that Schellenberg discovered. The children who took drama lessons were better at understanding the mental states of others, and they were more socially adjusted.

 

The social advantage that is gained by taking drama lessons is not surprising, says, Wang, if you stop to think about it. "It makes sense because these kids are acting out scenarios," Wang says, "acting out situations in which they have to react to other children and other people."

 

According to Wang, Schellenberg's research demonstrated that drama lessons are more effective than music lessons in influencing your child’s brain development, although these lessons don't necessarily make children better at math.

What's the Takeaway?

When Wang learned about Schellenberg's study he said, "I should enroll my children in drama lessons because you know she’ll be nicer with other kids, which could be useful."
 

Stop Subjecting Your Baby T...

Newsletter: Share: