Stop Subjecting Your Baby To Mozart! (Give Her Drama Lessons Instead)
Listening to Mozart won't make your child a mathematician, but Shakespeare can help make her more social.
From 2011-2014, Daniel Honan was the Managing Editor at Big Think. Prior to Big Think, Daniel was Vice President of Production for Plum TV, a niche cable network he helped launch in 2002. The production team he oversaw won over two dozen Emmy awards. Daniel has created numerous shows and documentaries for television, and his film credits include Stealing the Fire, a documentary on the black market for nuclear weapons technology.
Follow Daniel on Twitter @DanielHonan
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.
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.
What's the Takeaway?
The controversy around the Torah codes gets a new life.
- Mathematicians claim to see a predictive pattern in the ancient Torah texts.
- The code is revealed by a method found with special computer software.
- Some events described by reading the code took place after the code was written.
Giving our solar system a "slap in the face."
- A stream of galactic debris is hurtling at us, pulling dark matter along with it
- It's traveling so quickly it's been described as a hurricane of dark matter
- Scientists are excited to set their particle detectors at the onslffaught
Orangutans join humans and bees in a very exclusive club
- Orangutan mothers wait to sound a danger alarm to avoid tipping off predators to their location
- It took a couple of researchers crawling around the Sumatran jungle to discover the phenomenon
- This ability may come from a common ancestor
SMARTER FASTER trademarks owned by The Big Think, Inc. All rights reserved.