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Surprising Science

Mozart: Good For What Ails Ya, Cognitively Speaking

Improved ability to cope with cognitive dissonance is tied to a regular dose of Wolfgang Amadeus M., according to preliminary research.

Article written by guest writer Kecia Lynn

What’s the Latest Development?

Two researchers, Nobuo Masataka of Kyoto University and Leonid Perlovsky of Harvard University, recently reported in the journal Scientific Reports that listening to Mozart can help resolve cognitive dissonance, also known as “that intense feeling of discomfort that arises when we realize two of our core beliefs are at odds.” They tested Japanese 4-year-old boys by asking each boy to rank a set of toys in order of favorites, then allowing a period of solo play with either a Mozart piece or silence in the background. The experimenter then permitted them to play with any toy except the one they ranked second-best. The boys who didn’t hear the music gave the toy a much lower subsequent ranking, whereas most of the boys who heard the music increased their evaluation of the toy.

What’s the Big Idea?

Mozart’s music has been attributed with special healing powers in a variety of situations ranging from pain relief to IQ increase. Although it’s not entirely clear how it made the boys resolve their cognitive dissonance, the researchers say that “even a first step toward identifying a mechanism for tolerating [it] is fundamentally important.”

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